Every nation produces composers and writers, but the British have a unique talent and enthusiasm for performers. Our actors, singers and musicians travel the world to display their talents to great acclaim. It is sad beyond measure that we are deprived of listening to them.
When I accepted the role of chair of the Philharmonia I did not anticipate that the orchestra would be prohibited from playing to a live audience for six months or more.
The world has changed for us all since the start of the pandemic. But live performers have suffered more than most. It is not just the loss of income – some of which has been mitigated by government schemes and the generosity of supporters – but they have been deprived of the experience that provides their motivation – playing with others and to an audience.
We are living in a world of radical uncertainty. It is pointless to speculate on when performances will restart. We must keep our options open and use the opportunity afforded to us by the crisis to think hard about the future of live music and theatre.
We will suppress the virus and the virus will not suppress the arts
The outpouring of online material and the ingenuity shown by its creators will surely stimulate new thinking about how to interact with our audiences. Insurance against catastrophic outcomes, such as the current ban on performances, will be on the agenda of every finance committee.
Whatever the current challenges, we must never forget that music and art touch people’s emotions – indeed their souls – irrespective of their nationality, income or education.
They go to the heart of what life is about. Our potential audiences are huge. We must find a way to reach them. And the government must recognise that if live performances are the last out of the lockdown then performers should receive the greatest help.
As we come out of the lockdown, there will be many changes to the way people choose to spend their money and how businesses will organise their work. But the demand and need for music and art will be stronger than ever.
At the Philharmonia, we are looking forward to the future. The players are excited about the opportunity to attain greater musical heights under our new principal conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali. We have a talented new young management team with the impending arrivals of Alexander Van Ingen as chief executive and Ben Larpent as director of artistic planning. They will oversee a new programme of performances, involvement with a range of residences at home and abroad, an enhancement of our educational role and an expansion of the successful digital programme.
We will suppress the virus and the virus will not suppress the arts. Whatever your taste – Beethoven or Bach, Shakespeare or Stoppard, or a myriad of contemporary composers, writers and singers – live performances will return to an enthusiastic reception.