207 concerts broadcast from St Mary's Perivale in the pandemic
A brief resume of the past eventful 16 months
The Covid pandemic has adversely affected every arts organization in the UK. However, at St Mary's Perivale we have survived by transforming ourselves into a broadcasting centre, using our excellent video facilities and thus have been able to continue supporting musicians and providing entertainment for our many supporters, living both locally in Ealing and around the world. We have now broadcast 207 concerts in the 16 months of the pandemic and paid over £38,000 to our musicians, and our broadcasts have been viewed over 160,000 times on Youtube and Vimeo. This article explains our activities in detail.
St Mary's Perivale is a tiny, Grade-1 listed medieval church in West London, only 6 miles from Marble Arch, which is redundant and now functions solely as a classical music centre. I have organized over 1100 concerts there since 2004. Our success in the pandemic has depended on the remarkable video system installed by Simon Shute (R), aided by George Auckland (L) shown in the photograph above, who had both retired from distinguished careers at the BBC. Initially concerts were recorded to provide musicians with a memento in standard definition video. In 2016 High-definition cameras were installed, and we now have 7 such cameras, and since 2018 we have live streamed all concerts on Youtube and Vimeo, from our digital facility situated in the 15th century tower. Until the pandemic this was regarded as a peripheral adjunct to our concerts.
During the first total lockdown in April and May 2020, we streamed 53 recordings from our library of about 400 previous concerts, on successive afternoons. Few other organizations were streaming concerts at that time, and we were competing with the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Met for our virtual audience. We paid a total of £6500 to musicians whose concerts were broadcast. Following the partial relaxation of restrictions, we restarted LIVE concerts in an empty church, with strict adherence to Covid protocols in June 2020. Since then we have held 154 LIVE concerts without an audience, as detailed in this lockdown archive, including 70 piano recitals, 23 violin and piano duos, and 26 trios or larger ensembles etc. Our highlight was the Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival in October 2020 , when 32 pianists played all the sonatas over a weekend. Over 200 musicians have performed in these concerts, and they have been paid over £32,000. Each concert has been viewed by an average of 800 viewers, with a peak of over 3000 viewers for the Beethoven Festival, and viewers from over 50 countries. The total of views on Youtube is over 142,000, with another 22,000 on Vimeo. All concerts have been freely available, with no ‘paywall', and we have been entirely dependent on donations from viewers, with no external sponsorship or public funding. These have been remarkably generous, perhaps because our supporters realize that we are a team of unpaid volunteers, so all funds go to the musicians or to maintain our historic building rather than providing administrative support.
So our video and streaming facilities have unexpectedly been a lifeline for our organization over the past year. Instead of physical audiences of perhaps 30-60 local people from Ealing, our concerts have been viewed by thousands around the world, and our tiny venue has assumed an important role in providing concert opportunities for many musicians, and cultural entertainment and solace for viewers. We will resume concerts with a physical audience in the church next month, while complying with government Covid guidelines, with over 40 concerts before Christmas. Highlights include a repeat Beethoven Sonata Festival with 32 pianists in October, and a similar festival devoted to the 18 Mozart piano sonatas next March. All will be broadcast, and we hope that viewers around the world will enjoy them, and that we can continue to support musicians in these difficult times. Huge thanks are due to our technical team, which comprises Simon Shute, George Auckland and Andrew Whadcoat, and to other key members of our organization, notably Roger Nellist and also Andrew Goodhart, Richard Norris, Gill Rowley, Rob Jenkins and Truus Bos. Finally, thanks to all our on-line supporters who have made this possible, and of course to our huge pool of superb musicians.
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