Christmas has always been a time for charity, largely due to its association with the Christian faith and the birth of Jesus. However, the spirit of charity at Christmas is not limited to Christianity, and is very clearly shown in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", or indeed the wonderfully witty "Blackadder's Christmas Carol"! Charity can often mean looking after not just our own closest people, but those further from us too. This year, lockdowns and other Covid restrictions have affected many people’s livelihoods, and the number of those in poverty has increased. One industry that has been particularly badly affected is the performing arts. With concert halls and theatres closed for much of the year, those whose work depends on live performance have really suffered, especially in cases where government support has been lacking or insufficient.
Bringing some joyous light into this gloomy scenario is a project that aims to help raise funds, and good cheer, for musicians in poverty: the vivacious Dancing Folk remote collaborative orchestral performance. This four-minute single is being sold as a download via Bandcamp (https://musiciansformusicians.bandcamp.com/track/dancing-folk), in aid of the charity Help Musicians (AKA the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work), via Royal Opera House violinist Amelia Conway-Jones’ fund-raising campaign “Musicians for Musicians” (https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/musicians-for-musicians). Sales will also benefit charities for musicians in all the other countries represented in the orchestra. The video, showing a composite of the many players, some with intriguing backgrounds, can be seen here https://vimeo.com/476866370.
At the heart of the project are renowned conductor and Guildhall Professor of Conducting Tim Redmond and composer Jeff Moore. Tim commissioned Jeff to write a piece to bring musicians together during lockdown, with parts suitable for a range of musical ability, from Grade 2 to professional. Jeff was inspired by Percy Grainger’s arrangements of the traditional folk tunes he collected on his travels, and while Dancing Folk is entirely original, it still gives a friendly nod to Grainger and his genuine folk inspirations. Jeff’s aim was to write a piece that conveyed optimism, togetherness and jollity, as a counter to the isolation, sorrow and anxiety of this year. The orchestra consists of more than 2,500 musicians from 50 countries, encompassing children, amateur adult musicians and some of the top professionals from leading classical ensembles and the West End. In addition, the Irish dancer and choreographer Edwina Gluckian devised a set of dance steps to the music, and the video includes scenes of dancers dancing them.
So, if you are a music lover who is thinking about some Christmas charitable giving, perhaps consider helping to support struggling musicians, so that they can make it through the current crisis and be able to delight us again in the future we all hope for, when music and theatre can go live again. Because where would our orchestras, opera companies, theatres, dance companies be, if everyone in them had to retrain in “cyber”…?