Live-streaming from St Mary's Perivale - an overview
Live streaming of classical concerts came suddenly to prominence in June 2020, when it was the only means of maintaining concerts and providing performing opportunities and income for musicians in the lockdown. At the time it was presumed to be a temporary pandemic phenomenon, but it is now clear that it will form a permanent and important new way of experiencing concerts, with many advantages as well as some disadvantages. There is a huge swathe of the population who cannot or will not travel to attend concerts, because they are either elderly, disabled, have family commitments, live far away from a concert venue, cannot afford the cost of the ticket and travel, or cannot face an unpleasant journey to and from the event, particularly in adverse weather. The convenience of being able to enjoy the concert in the comfort of one's home, particularly via a smart TV, for little or no expense, is obviously attractive, particularly when the cost of living is rising exponentially. While this is not a substitute for the ‘real thing', it is a different and valid option for many concert-goers. There are obviously some disadvantages. It is difficult to gain emotional involvement in the concert when sitting alone at home, perhaps feeling lonely and isolated, but this can be partly overcome by participating in ‘live-chats' sharing opinions with other viewers, leading to the formation of on-line communities enjoying concerts together. The ‘live' nature of the event is important, providing a ‘presence' and an authentic ‘feel' compared with watching old performances on Youtube.
St Mary's Perivale is a tiny redundant medieval church which is now solely a classical music centre, with an increasing national reputation. We have taken a lead in livestreaming classical concerts, and pride ourselves of now being the foremost video broadcasting venue for instrumental and chamber music in the UK. We have broadcast 250 live events since June 2020, and will stream 125 concerts this year - far more than any other venue. Our video facilities comprise 8 high definition cameras and 6 high-quality microphones, installed by our team of retired BBC staff, led by Simon Shute, George Auckland (both shown below) and Andrew Whadcoat, and the church has a good piano, perfect acoustics and excellent broadband coverage. The resulting vision and sound quality of our broadcasts is stunning, and our carefully selected musicians are of universally high calibre. All the musicians are paid from voluntary donations, and our success has been achieved by a team of volunteers without any public funding or salaried staff.
So we have now adopted a ‘hybrid' concert model, with a small audience of 20 to 40 in the church, and a virtual audience watching the broadcast on Vimeo or Youtube, either concurrently (about 50) or in the next couple of days (about 250-400 views). The audience in the church provides the ambience and applause, and their donations cover the musicians' fee. The latter gain vital publicity from the viewing of their performances by so many people throughout the country and the world – so far in over 50 countries. This is essential for their careers, and obviously more useful than reading a review of a concert, however favourable. All concerts remain available for viewing for 3 weeks afterwards, and most remain permanently viewable. We specialize in solo piano recitals, making use of the huge pool of brilliant pianists currently living in or around London, providing performing experience for about 70 carefully selected pianists per year, at an important stage of their careers.
Our residual problem is that of publicity. Our broadcasts only receive a tiny fraction of the number of viewers watching Wigmore Hall concerts, for example. It is difficult breaking into the monopoly enjoyed by larger public funded organizations in Central London, but we will persevere and hope to attract more and more viewers to our high quality concert schedule. We are dedicated to promoting the careers of the best young musicians. Please help to spread the word. Our concerts can be viewed via our website or directly on Youtube and we have around 80 concerts planned before the end of this year, detailed here.
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