With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world and forcing a great many of us into lockdown for an undetermined period, many of us have been attempting to find new ways to keep boredom at bay and to maintain some sense of normalcy.
Musicians are no exception and have had large swathes of work evaporate completely with theatre and gig venues closed until further notice.
Some innovative and creative minds have done their best to keep the music going by broadcasting performances virtually, with each performer remaining at home.
Here are the top 10…
10. Orchestra of Opera North – 2020: An Isolation Odyssey
When the Orchestra of Opera North had their concert performance of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra cancelled they decided the show must go on virtually. Here we see 40 players from around the UK conducted from Sweden by Tobias Ringborg the classic tune most famously used in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Keep an eye out for the cymbal player with his three less than impressed children, and the triangle player performing while on a watt-bike.
9. Parkland High School Wind Ensemble – Amazing Grace
With the great majority of schools currently closed, many teachers are looking for new and innovative ways to deliver their curriculum online.
Here the music department from Parkland High School in El Paso, Texas have used this virtual performance to keep their students busy and to spread a little cheer during these difficult times.
8. The Girl Choristers of Holy Trinity St Mary’s Guildford – Rutter’s A Clare Benediction
With the Easter season normally being one which heavily features family time, many of us found ourselves without the company of some loved ones this year.
This performance was originally intended for Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day) but the pandemic forced Holy Trinity’s Girls choir, directed by Nick Graham, to perform this piece virtually.
A fantastic result.
7. Couch Choir – David Bowie’s Heroes
The Couch Choir, an evolution of the Pub Choir from Brisbane, Australia has drastically expanded its base in recent times.
This performance involved 6000 strangers from 45 countries submitting a video in three days to sing one song. All dedicated to the front line heroes who are working so hard to keep us safe.
6. Colorado Symphony – Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
The world famous EU anthem is known around the world as an ode to humanity, to peace over desperation, to universal friendship and to joy.
This is the offering from the Colorado Symphony in uncertain times who say that “despite the anxiety they will come back stronger than ever before.”
5. Manchester Contemporary Youth Choir – Bill Withers’ Lean on Me
Locally, there have been a number of virtual musical projects focussed on our mental health during these difficult lockdown days. The Choir Project Manchester conducted by Dan McDwyer encourages people of all ages and abilities to get involved.
Here, some senior members of the Manchester Contemporary Youth Choir perform a virtual cover of Bill Withers’ Lean on Me dedicated to our front line NHS workers.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
4. Nine versions of Stuart McDermott – Toto’s Africa
On a slightly smaller scale, it’s amazing what a lockdown can do to generate creativity among musicians.
One advantage of virtual performance is being able to record yourself on multiple tracks and have them play back live, to give the effect of playing with multiple versions of yourself.
Here we have freelance musician and father of two Stuart McDermott singing an a Capella version of Toto’s Africa.
Goodness knows how he found the time to put down nine tracks in between home schooling his children during this lockdown.
He is certainly a man of multiple talents.
3. Ben England and Quarantine choir – It’s a long time to be in lockdown
The bronze medal position is taken by a hilarious rendition of It’s a long time to be in lockdown to the tune of wartime classic It’s a long way to Tipperary.
Ben England, a conductor based in Bristol has set up a ‘Quarantine Choir’ so people affected by the outbreak can continue to enjoy singing.
Only launched in mid March, Ben is uploading daily singing videos to YouTube with a mixture of singing technique, breathing exercises, performance tips, silly games and the occasional bout of lunacy.
Here we have him performing this classic with two other versions of himself.
2. The Happy Disharmonists – Scheiss Corona
This Berlin based choir have taken out the runner up position here with their brilliant virtual rendition from The Knack’s My Sharona which they have called Scheiss Corona.
I promise it will not matter if you don’t speak a lick of German, a translation will not be necessary. I particularly enjoy the disinfectant spray being used as a percussion instrument.
1. Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House – Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah
Top spot is awarded to the world class orchestra and chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. This virtual recording conducted by Antonio Pappano includes 30 singers and 66 orchestral members, including a string player with a broken arm!
The Royal Opera House are offering a schedule of free broadcasts and content which audiences can access for free at any time.
This performance would be my vote to be piped through the streets of Britain once the lockdown is over.