Back in March as the country went into lockdown, we here in Skipton Camerata watched with astonishment as the bookings diary quickly emptied. At first we were kept busy cancelling events and paying cancellation fees to our freelance professional musicians, the last income many would receive for months. We watched as the diary emptied of bookings. As time went on and the lockdown stretched further out in front of us we asked ourselves what we could do both to continue creating music as well as helping some of the musicians.
It was then that artistic director Ben Crick hit upon the idea of the Lockdown Diaries.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted so many people in so many different ways. Their stories are told in the newspapers, on radio and television, and over social media. They have been exchanged by neighbours across garden walls and by mask-wearing shoppers. We have heard so many tales of joy and sorrow, of courage and humour.
We have taken five of those extraordinary stories, complied for us by writer Kamal Kaan, to use as the basis of a series of films in which music is central.
We then took those stories and gave them to five composers, asking them to write a short piece of music for narrator and seven instruments - violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and percussion. Those who attended Camerata's performance of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale in 2018 will recognise the unusual combination of instruments.
After issuing a call for composers that drew many more applications than we anticipated, we chose five from across the country with a diverse mix of styles and backgrounds: Jake Adams, Rania Chrysostomou, John Kefala Kerr, Nicholas Olsen and Susannah Self.
Lockdown Diaries will be a collaborative project combining Skipton Camerata’s musical virtuosity with the theatrical mastery and technical wizardry of our project partners, Cloth Ears, a music-focused multi-media performing arts group. Led by Cloth Ears' sound and video designer Jonathan Green, the new works will be recorded and filmed in Kala Sangam Arts Centre, Bradford.
Given the theme of the project, it is apt that Lockdown Diaries has proved to be a wonderful example of collaborative effort in the face of adversity, not only the numerous individuals and organisations involved that are working to bring the project about but also the financial support received from Skipton Building Society, the Garfield Weston Foundation and a donation from Sheffield Oratorio Chorus.
The series of five films will be available online in November.