As we unhappily mark the first anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 in Britain, and remember all the terrible things that it has done to us, we should pause to consider the tremendous achievements of the BSO in the last twelve months.
While many orchestras have descended into silence, the BSO has presented top quality music and conversation on just about every Wednesday evening since last March. While many audiences have hardly seen the inside of a concert hall in the nation’s big cities, real live people sat and revelled in real live music at BSO concerts in Lighthouse all through the autumn when such things were permitted.
This provided work for the players in an industry ravaged by cancelled events, it brought to Poole a fantastic range of soloists and conductors, and above all it kept music playing for audiences through some mightily depressing times. What’s more, a quick look back at the programmes presented will show that an amazing range of inspiring music has been played so far. Master works by Beethoven, Brahms, Elgar and Dvořák were balanced by less familiar pieces by Akimenko, Penderecki, Liadov and Lindberg (a UK premiere).
Dougie Scarfe and his team were not prepared to sit back and wait for improvements in circumstances to come to them. It took a supreme effort, no doubt, but they showed enterprise and determination to take the initiative forward – and get the Orchestra back on stage.
The confidence of the technical achievement is also so impressive. We already seem to take the huge stage extension in Lighthouse for granted, but it had to be dreamed up, then built. We now see these performances only on line, but the cameras, microphones, mixing and broadcasting equipment all had to be planned, brought in and set up to allow this to happen.
Ultimately, performing together is what an orchestra is all about, of course. But this incredible year has made many of the audience feel a particular connection to the players and the music they make. Against a background of loss and isolation, the BSO has consistently promoted a great sense of loyalty and community in its listeners and viewers all over the UK, and indeed round the world. Music has this power.
Everyone at the Orchestra will deserve an Easter break before the final coda to the 2020/21 season starts. The next twelve months will surely be better – but we must not take for granted the tremendous achievements of the BSO.
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See our recent reviews here:
‘a finely judged reflection on the past year’
‘an aptly sober yet stirring programme’