Tuesday 10 November 2020

Embracing a changed world and a developed on-line presence: arts organisations change and adapt to the new reality

Telemann: Cantata 'Der am Olberg Zagende Jesus' - Roderick Williams, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Photo: Soutbank Centre, BBC Radio 3, Mark Allan)
Telemann: Cantata 'Der am Olberg Zagende Jesus' - Roderick Williams, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
(Photo: Soutbank Centre, BBC Radio 3, Mark Allan)

Last year a young vocal ensemble, Songspiel, applied for funding to create a film project based around a new song cycle with the view that classical music had been slow to adapt to on-line formats but when it did its reach was measurably incredibly large. The result, revealed last week [see my article] debuted in a changed world. And reactions to those changes are starting to filter through, as arts organisations of varying types embrace an on-line presence in a world where access to live performance is at a premium.

Last night was the press launch of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's OAE Player, its sophisticated new on-line offering. The same day, Ikon Arts Management announced a new partnership with media relations agency Nicky Thomas Media and film production company TMRW CO to offer comprehensive digital services to artists and arts organisations, and the UK classical music world's only print news outlet, Classical Music announced that it is going to stop printing and transform into an on-line classical music news website.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's OAE Player was given a virtual press launch last night as I and my colleagues watched terrific performances of Telemann's Cantata der am Olbeg Zagende Jesus, Bach's Cantata 'Ich habe genug' BWV 82 and Handel's Apollo e Dafne with baritone Roderick Williams and soprano Rowan Pierce. The OAE Player not only leverages recordings of live performances such as this, and the ensemble's Bach, the Universe and Everything series at Kings Place but also includes specially created content recorded without an audience this summer, including Beethoven's Octet, Telemann's instrumental fantasias and much else besides. The intention is that the on-line portal will offer a growing number of performances, masterclasses and 'hidden value' content, and is seen by OAE as an on-line incarnation of its planned 2020/21 The Edge of Reason. It is a route that many organisations will be looking at implementing.

Included in the specially recorded videos is music from Jean-Baptiste Lully's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. As Crispin Woohead, CEO of the OAE comments about the work's central character, Monsieur Jordain,  "He’s an idiot, but not a complete idiot.  In him we see ourselves, struggling with the things we shouldn’t do, but do anyway."

An emblem, perhaps, for our times.

Not every artist or small organisation can easily afford to create a sophisticated on-line offering. The new partnership between artist management company Ikon Arts Management, which already has a link-up publishers Edition Peters, media relations agency Nicky Thomas Media and film production company TMRW CO, is intended to offer artists a way of considering the full media potential of on-line rather than just streamed concerts, to seek new ways to present music and engage audiences. Examples of the sort-of joined up thinking that can result from this includes the Hatfield House Music Festival's highly engaging on-line festival this year, combining music, art and history (its first digital offering), and forthcoming cross-genre projects with the Orchestra of the Swan.

And of course, the news-gathering and reporting of all this has to change as well. The September/October 2020 issue of Classical Music (which was founded in 1976 as a weekly and since 2018 it has been part of the Mark Allen Group) will be the last in print. Instead, the publication will become fully on-line as classical-music.uk, a one-stop hub providing news, opinion, analysis, podcasts and industry resources aimed at all those working in classical music or with a professional interest in the sector. With the industry changing so quickly, and with personal and professional interactions changed radically by the restrictions placed on us, having a responsive new website is a welcome development, assuming that the economic model works.

This is just a sampling, what popped into my inbox yesterday, there will be plenty more changes and in a year's time, groups and organisations that have not embraced change will come seem like dinosaurs.

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