abc– Emma McGrath has missed the thrill of playing to a live audience during the coronavirus-affected months of 2020.
But with in-person performances back on the cards in 2021, the concert master with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has a lot to look forward to.
“Everyone has come together with new ideas, new ways to adapt, new things to focus on,” McGrath said.
“So the audience is really going to see a lot of that process next year, a lot of the fruits of our labours.”
Like many arts organisations, the TSO will focus on the local as it returns to performing in front of an audience next year.
TSO chief executive Caroline Sharpen said Tasmanian talent would feature heavily.
“TSO musicians will be featured in almost every concert so it’s a complete game change … to have [Tasmanian talent] front and centre of everything we do is probably a first for us.”
The arts industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show roughly a third of the positions in performing arts and film and television production were lost between March and August.
“The major performing arts organisations are not immune to that either, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the moment are battling for their survival.”
He said the arts needs support from patrons as well as from all levels of government.
“We shouldn’t let this pandemic wipe out a generation of emerging artists.”
Northey is looking forward to the MSO’s 2021 season.
He said Melbourne’s extended shutdown forced the orchestra to think about how it could do things differently.
Its 2021 season will celebrate Australian artists — including MSO members — and Australian music, as well as Melbourne’s diversity and Australia’s Indigenous heritage.
“Music’s got a massive role to play in the healing process, in the recovery process all over the world, particularly here in Melbourne and I think part of that is giving us something to be proud of and that’s what music can do, and what better way to do that than to highlight the gifts and the talents of our own musicians,” he said.
Stuart Maunder has been artistic director at the State Opera of South Australia for two years, which gave him time to get to know what talent was available in Adelaide before the pandemic hit.
“It’s been a happy coincidence that we’re using a lot more local people in Adelaide and I’m delighted to do so, I don’t feel hamstrung by that,” Mr Maunder said.
He said the company would continue to cast artists from interstate and overseas, particularly Australians living and working overseas, but local singers would be an important part of next year’s season.
“All of our Lost Operas of Oz [series] for next year will be cast with local singers. We’ve also delighted in bringing back a lot of South Australians who happen to be in South Australia because of the COVID lockdown.”
‘Nothing like’ a live audience
Performers in some cities have already returned to the stage. For others, including TSO and MSO musicians, the 2021 season-opening concerts will be their first in front of a live audience in almost a year.
Digital offerings have kept the music going, but McGrath said there’s “nothing like” playing for an audience.
“I just try and play great music no matter what, but if there’s an audience there I feel like I can have a bit more of a risk-taking approach because it feels more spontaneous because they’re right there and it’s this live thing that once it happens it’s over,” she said.
The MSO’s return will be “overwhelmingly emotional” for the orchestra, Northey said.
“When we’re standing up on stage the orchestra will be standing up at the beginning of the concert looking at the audience and that’ll be one of the most special moments of my career,” he said.