The RPS Conversation
We present a series of conversations especially for classical music lovers, aiming to give a very human impression of how the pandemic has affected the lives and work of classical music makers.
The pandemic has made these extraordinary times for us all, and particularly for the performing arts. Through it all, you have likely heard much animated advocacy from all sorts of voices, each speaking out for music whilst – in lockdown – it can hardly speak for itself. Yet on the other hand, you may have wondered how all that squares with the unlimited luxuries of classical music still bringing us so much comfort from our radio stations and streaming services, not to mention the deluge of inspired performances that musicians have shared with us all from home.
Our intention with the RPS Conversation is to speak through some of the current noise and try to give music lovers a candid, sincere and human impression of how music makers are faring through the pandemic.
We presented four initial conversations in 2020, each touching on a different aspect of Britain’s proud classical music heritage, and in early 2021 (detailed below) a further conversation - presented live - asked what happens next for classical music in the year ahead.
Our first conversation is on opera and is available to watch, listen to or read now. It brings together Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House, soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn who has gone from singing title roles at the New York Met and English National Opera to finding herself homebound in rural Yorkshire, Lorna Price, Head of Costume at Scottish Opera who has been making hundreds of scrubs for the NHS, and tenor Trystan Llŷr Griffiths who has unexpectedly found new fame singing opera on his doorstep in Cardiff.
Our next conversation focuses on writing music in these extraordinary times. You can watch, listen to or read it here. It brings together composers Sir James MacMillan, Roxanna Panufnik, Daniel Kidane who wrote for the 2019 BBC Last Night of the Proms, and Hannah Conway who writes extensively in community settings, notably working with homeless people in her role as Creative Director of Streetwise Opera. They talk about how lockdown differs from the usual isolation of working as a composer, and discuss how - as the sound of the world has changed - the sound of music may change too.
Music on the home front
As lockdown began, could any of us have imagined the sheer deluge of music that people instantly started creating at home and sharing both online and on our doorsteps to keep us all bright? Our third conversation which you can watch listen to or read here asks what this might signify for the future of music-making in Britain. It brings together four people who have each done remarkable musical things in lockdown: pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, choral director Ben England, violinist Catherine Arlidge and conductor Helen Harrison.
In our fourth conversation, we turn to orchestras, bringing together players from much-loved ensembles in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We ask them how musicians who spend their days as part of a team have coped suddenly being without their fellow players and their treasured audience, and what they have each been doing to keep musical and keep in touch with their communities in lockdown. Watch, listen to or read the conversation here.
The RPS Conversation - Live
On 11 February 2021, we invited four individuals who each played a key part in keeping music going through 2020, to share their frank thoughts on what happens next for classical music. Violinist Elena Urioste won an RPS Inspiration Award for her joyful ‘UriPosteJukeBox’ performances online, soprano Mary Bevan – against all the odds – staged a series of outdoor concerts, conductor Nicholas Collon was one of the first back on the podium with his Aurora Orchestra, and ‘The Voice Doctor’ Declan Costello led the vital research into what constituted safe performance, enabling many musicians to get back to work. The conversation was presented live and, for a strictly limited time, you can freely watch it here.