Orchestras are to return to one of Britain’s most characteristic concert halls after 6 months post-lockdown absence with a period heavily impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gillian Moore, director of music at the Southbank Centre but also writer and broadcaster about music who can often be heard on BBC Radio 3, announced that the return of orchestras was thrilling. “My heart is singing,” she admitted. “It has been like an ache, the idea that the wonderful Royal Festival Hall, in particular, is not resounding to the sound of music.”
The season had to respond to contemporary events, she added. “We are not emerging into a world where it is business as usual. I think we’ve all been changed.”
Indeed, classical music has long been criticised for being overwhelmingly white, but the Southbank Centre agreed on having its first post-lockdown season in the Royal Festival Hall featuring works by 16 composers of colour.
The new commission in London will include a new commission the British composer James B Wilson and Hutchinson.
The event will include outstanding works by Adolphus Hailstork, Avril Coleridge-Taylor, Courtney Bryan, Dai Fujikura, Errollyn Wallen, Fela Sowande, George Lewis, Hannah Kendall, Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Jimmy López, Joel Thompson, Joseph Boulogne, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Shiva Feshareki and Tania León. Yet, the most known and notorious pieces will be there, including lots of Beethoven. Moore said: “It is his 250th anniversary year and he’s had a rather curtailed party. He can really speak to these times because of his utter humanity … he is universal.”
Musicians will be returning for the three-month series of concerts at the centre, but the public will not be present due to the coronavirus healthy measures restrictions. Yet, the festival will be streamed online and 10 of the concerts will be broadcast on Radio 3.
Moore added that the centre had always been aware of the accusations that classical music exists in “a kind of abstract bubble. That it Inside Out season is about to start: the Royal Festival Hall in London reopens with BLM-signature bother its pretty head with matters which are urgent to people’s lives. We embrace that idea at our peril.”
The work by Wilson, a collaboration with the poet Yomi Sode who is also a spoken word artist, poet and MC, will respond to the photo that went viral on social media of Hutchinson carrying a counter-protester. It was an occasion that took place at the artists’ entrance to the Royal Festival Hall. Wilson claimed: “It was an absolutely incredible image. It was a kind of watershed moment in what we’ve been seeing in the last few months.”
The new work aims to investigate the image and the issues further, said Wilson, “perhaps in a way which hasn’t yet been done in the media”. It will be performed by Chineke! Orchestra.
The new season is titled Inside Out and also involves amazing comedy and literature pieces. In that latter category there will be events featuring Angela Davis, Alicia Garza, Dawn French, John Cleese, Claudia Rankine, Arundhati Roy and Kate Tempest.
Another classical music focus will be the postponed last ever recital at a major UK venue for the violinist Tasmin Little. Moore, according to this, said: “She has decided she is going to do other things and not have the touring life. It is a historic moment.”
Vladimir Jurowski, Russian and British principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra also famous for being the son of conductor Michail Jurowski, and grandson of Soviet film music composer Vladimir Michailovich Jurowski, has welcomed the return to the concert hall. He declared: “While the foyers might lie quiet with the distant sound of our audiences, nothing will be able to suppress the energy and excitement of the LPO as we return to the Royal Festival Hall stage.”