In the final classical music column of our In Your Living Room series, Angus McPherson takes a look at Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s first international satellite concert, featuring soprano Siobhan Stagg, The Academy of St Martin in the Field’s new streaming service, and some of the lighter content from our orchestras during the COVID-19 shut downs.

Siobhan Stagg, Melbourne Digital Concert Hall
Siobhan Stagg
Siobhan Stagg. Photo © Todd Rosenberg

June 24 at 8:30pm AEST

Adele Schonhardt and Chris Howlett have proved heroes of Australia’s classical music scene during the COVID-19 pandemic with the creation of Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, a platform that has allowed musicians – many for whom almost all income completely dried up overnight – to perform ticketed concerts online. Some ten weeks since its launch, MDCH has rapidly expanded from Melbourne concerts to include interstate satellite concerts, and has raised over $325,000 for musicians. Now German-based Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg, who has turned to online voice lessons as she rides at the COVID-19 closures and cancellations, will give MDCH’s first international satellite performance from Australian Ambassador to Germany H.E. Lynette Wood’s residence in Berlin. Joined by pianist Kunal Lahiry, Stagg’s recital – Berlin Soirée – will feature songs by Lili Boulanger, from the composer’s Clairières dans le ciel song cycle, chansons by Fauré and Debussy, and a brand new song written during COVID-19 lockdown by Melbourne composer Dermot Tutty. Stagg will be donating her ticket proceeds from the recital to the Arts Wellbeing Collective to support Australian cultural workers. For more Siobhan Stagg, see ABC iView’s classical concerts selection, which features excerpts from her performance of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, or the TSO’s own Daily Dose series.

While many organisations are beginning to scale back their online content as tentative plans are being made to return to concert halls, MDCH has concerts booked will into August. The Aquilina Gala Series continues apace on Saturday nights, while a series of concerts across July and August will feature the musicians of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. Among the other highlights are cellist Michelle Wood and pianist Stefan Cassomenos doing a wordless rendition of Schubert’s Winterreise, a concert called Wilma and Friends – Rock, Paper, Scissors, which will see violinist Wilma Smith joined by pianist Yasmin Rowe and cellist Yelian He for trios by Rachmaninov and Mendelssohn, and concerts by the Australian Chamber Choir and Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Limelight Artist of the Year
Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Available from June 29 at 4am AEST

Overseas, chamber orchestra The Academy of St Martin in the Fields has announced a new online series streaming concerts from its archives every month, beginning on June 28 with the band’s 60th anniversary concert which took place last November. Led by Music Director Joshua Bell, the concert opens with Mozart’s Symphony No 25 (which featured on the Amadeus soundtrack, the Academy conducted by founder Sir Neville Marriner), Mendelssohn’s Op. 64 Violin Concerto – with Bell as soloist – and what was the UK premiere of Composer-in-Residence Sally Beamish’s Hover, dedicated to Sir Neville’s memory. The concert will come to a close with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. July’s concert will be Marriner at 90, celebrating the conductor’s 90th birthday in 2014, with the man himself conducting Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Concerts will be available for two weeks.

Something lighter
Violinist Alex Mitchell's cat Bella

While this column has tended to focus on concert length performances, the concert shutdowns have forced organisations to be creative with the content they’re pumping out online to keep their audiences engaged. While some has been more or less ‘serious’, such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s HomeCasts series or the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Virtual Concert Hall, other content has ranged from cute to delightfully silly, spanning a variety of mediums.

For instance, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra has been running a series titled Backstage baking, which has seen musicians in the orchestra share recipes for the treats they bring in as interval snacks to share backstage (Queensland Symphony Orchestra has also got into the COVID cooking, such as this video of cellist Craig Allister Young’s making donuts). The QSO’s Orchestra Over The Fence series has yielded delightful results, such as this video of horn players Ian O’Brien, Vivienne Collier-Vickers, Lauren Manuel, and Malcolm Stewart playing Rossini in the backyard, with the sound of chooks for accompaniment. It’s hard to beat cute animal pictures, so a special shoutout goes to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for its photo gallery Meet the Pets of the First Violins.