Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, the classical music streaming venture which has raised $250,000 in its first two months, will open performances to a small audience from June 26. The announcement comes after Sunday’s decision by the Victorian Government to allow venues to welcome up to 50 patrons under social distancing measures.

Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Photo supplied

“In late June, we’ll open the doors of the Athenaeum Theatre for the first time in over three months and welcome a socially distanced audience of 35 people to join us for selected concerts,” said Co-Director Chris Howlett.

“As musicians, we thrive off the energies emitted by the audience, our colleagues and the score. It will be great to have all three components back together in a format that blends live and digital audiences. This combination of live and digital really is the way of the post-COVID-19 world.”

“We invite you to be one of the first to venture inside the closed Athenaeum, stretch out in an almost-empty row, cheer on the artists and experience the live-streaming magic in action. Of course, all cleaning and social distancing protocols will be adhered to strictly.”

A $70 studio pass gives patrons access to a full evening of MDCH concerts, consisting of either two separate one-hour recitals or a longer Gala event. As has been the case with its regular streams, the musicians receive most of the profits, earning the first $40 of each ticket sale.  The remainder of each ticket sale will support venue staff and cleaning and credit card costs, ensuring that the Athenaeum and MDCH remain viable.

“These concerts will also be streamed live as usual,” explains Co-Director Adele Schonhardt. “However we’ve greatly missed the buzz of an in-house audience and can’t wait for their applause to fill the hall once more. We’re so grateful to the Athenaeum, Kawai Australia and all our other partners for making this unique experience a reality.”

Launched on March 27 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDCH has so far streamed 54 concerts, engaged over 130 musicians in three states, and has introduced an online chamber series that will see more than 50 orchestral musicians earning performance income in June thanks to the support of arts patron Michael Aquilina.

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