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Webinars discussing the Future of Orchestras

May and June are usually months filled with events and conferences. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis has had a massive impact on these activities.

We would like to congratulate Classical Next, the League of American Orchestras, Karajan Music Tech and many others for adapting this quickly and provide us with brilliantly organized, quality online sessions.

For your convenience, we wrote a summary of two of these conferences - you will find it below.

Assessing the global situation / AEOS

This conference, co-organized by the Asociación Española de Orquestas, gave us clear insights on the situation faced by orchestras, country by country.

Benedikt Fohr opens the discussion exposing the situation at the Hong Kong Philharmonic, in a very pragmatic tone. He tells us about a possible start of rehearsals at the beginning of June, in small ensembles.

Sophie Galaise reports on the state of things at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who estimate opening their doors before the end of September (the season there run from January to December). The Managing Director proudly emphasizes the success of the remote concert videos published online, which extended the reputation of the orchestra overseas. Some things will change in the near future, however: the orchestra will attempt to put forward local artists more often, to reduce dependence on Chinese artists.

Maria Grundtman from the Swedish Performing Arts Association offers a different analysis, announcing that rehearsals have already started again since early May, focusing greatly on recording and live streaming. According to the manager, concerts could take place as early as the beginning of summer. Fingers crossed!

Mark Pemberton from the Association of British Orchestras dives right in and highlights the gravity of the situation in the UK and the absence of political decisions. British orchestras being more than 50-percent dependent on ticket sales, the situation is critical. Using digital technology is a necessity, but the challenge is then to find a suitable royalty model, which YouTube does not really provide.

Finally, Juan Antonio Cuellar from the Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia concludes on a positive and encouraging note, announcing new partnerships between the national tv and radio channels and orchestras in order to produce and broadcast several videos a week. However, the manager estimates that activities will go back to normal only around January 2021.

Here is the full recording of the session

Global Orchestra Meet-up / Classical Next

In this session organized by Classical Next, we received updates from other countries, adding complementary insights to the previous summary.

Jesse Rosen from the League of American Orchestras emphasizes the difficulty of managing the crisis in the light of the lack of a national policy. Among the 700 member orchestras, each reacts in a different way, depending on the interpretation of local and federal entities. Some orchestras could start their activities again this summer, whilst others will not begin again until fall 2021.

According to the president of the association, the most important point is to not leave aside the underlying problem linked to inequalities in the country.

Katherine Carleton from Orchestras Canadas tells us about the reactivity of the Canadian government, which was able to deploy a $500M emergency program for the culture sector.

The 130 orchestras of the network must still manage complex, hybrid systems of full-time and part-time workers. The managing director highlights the importance of digital activities but mostly questions the role of orchestras beyond the stage: how can orchestras play the role of social facilitators between different communities? This crisis has sparked such discussion on rethinking the future of orchestras.

Philippe Franjas from the Association Française des Orchestres offers a summary of the situation at the European scale. The main point highlighted is the lack of scientific studies proving that musicians can safely rehearse together in the same room. For example, recommendations for wind instruments went from 12-meter to 2-meter distancing in just two weeks… The topic of the responsibility of the employer is therefore quite sensitive.

The majority of European orchestras have cancelled the end of their season, will begin their activities again toward the end of May, will start live-streaming concerts in June and hope to go back to normal around September or October. The question of how to generate revenue through digital activities remains at the forefront.

Finally, our friend Rudolph Tang shares the situation in China, the first country affected. Rudolph shows, with the help of some survey results, that orchestra musicians managed to generate revenue thanks to online lessons, and that many initiatives have been started to stream concerts online.

Chinese orchestras being funded 100% by the State, financial stress is less present and they are well-supported.

In Taiwan, the Taipei Symphony Orchestra scheduled their first concert since the start of the epidemic for the 5th June, limiting the audience size to 55% of the usual capacity. They will play Beethoven’s violin Concerto and 7th Symphony. We will follow this closely!

We do not yet have the video recording of this conference, but do have a look at the Classical Next on their website, where it should be posted in the next few days.

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AUTHOR

Aurélia Azoulay-Guetta

CEO