To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.Aaron Copland
If you are like me and the majority of your life is ringed by music – you think in it, you dream in it, you write it, you listen to it, you perform it and you feel through it – then it certainly seems like the music has stopped right now. And, as Copland says, it is incredible. ‘Incredible’ in the truest sense of the word. It’s almost like a heart palpitation, a pause, a moment without structure, a silence between the heartbeats of life. And, there seems to be no end to the enforced silencing of live music-making. COVID-19 has closed-down our choirs, orchestras, bands, folk-groups and theatres, our artistic beating hearts, our souls and – for many of us – our very reason for existing. We are exiled from our lives.
For my colleagues and friends whose income, as freelance musicians and music teachers, has completely dried up, there appears absolutely no help from the government either. ‘These jobs are not viable’ our Chancellor tells us. ‘Sport, sport, sport’ the Prime Minister constantly tells us is what holds our communities together. Well, of course, I like many sports and agree that they are vital for health, mental health and fitness; but, so too are the arts. More people are involved in, employed by, and enjoy the creative industries in the UK than any other area. Our choirs, brass bands, theatres, theatre groups, dance groups and classes, painting, sculpture and other arts groups ARE the true lifeblood of our communities! They are how all of us express ourselves, join together for a common good, see each other, relate to each other and live better with each other.
The composer Gavin Higgins recently tweeted, “ I’m finding the way the government is throwing our entire industry under the bus atm because we’re not ‘viable’ heartbreaking… That’s been a painful realisation. We’re on our own guys…” And, I’m afraid he is all too correct. We are indeed on our own. But what a voice we all collectively have when we join together! What a cacophony of disapproval we can blast out if we work together to force the government to help music, theatre and the arts! A number of organisations are beginning to rally the groups for a collective push on the government. When that call comes, please all join it!! It seems that only numbers of people – and loss of possible votes – are able to shame this government into any form of action.
Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.Maya Angelou
It’s time for us all to start dancing and dancing to the same rhythm. The arts have long been a place where all are welcome. A place which helps to change societal norms. Artists are generally the first and sincerest in fighting for equality, equality of opportunity, of expression, of supporting those often neglected or forgotten by society. Yes, there is an enormous way to go – just look at recent articles by a famous children’s author, a TV historian and a young choral composer. They have a lot to learn and I truly hope that they learn it; but, in counter-balance to these, look at all of the wonderful, life-enhancing tweets, articles, music and books by our colleagues in the arts who have written, composed, danced and spoken out in support of all of our sisters and brothers in the most amazingly open way, trying to push away barriers and glass ceilings for people regardless of colour, creeds and religions (and none), sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. The arts enrich and support positive change and are crucial to the wellbeing of who we are as human beings.
So, when the call comes to unite, please hear it and join it. We may only get one chance…
Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.Sarah Dessen
Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.Plato (Attributed)