Radio 4 has invited its listeners to Desert Island Discs to send in their favourite eight pieces of music, a book they’d choose to take if marooned on a faraway atoll and, of course, a luxury. Apparently, being locked down, we have been listening to more music than ever before and the exercise of choosing music which is invested with memories and meaning is catching on.
I’m not surprised. A lot of our family’s music listening takes place at school where we get to hear it live: platform concerts, chapel services, ensembles, orchestral concerts, jazz soirees and more besides; at home, music practice – clarinet, drums, piano and singing – or impromptu music-making. The latter has continued, intensified even, while we’ve been kept at home, and witnessing music lessons online has been a real pleasure. But the realisation that all the concerts scheduled for this term wouldn’t be taking place was one of the lows, I have to admit, and it must be so much worse for those who would have been performing.
But as with so much in this crisis, the imaginative ingenuity of people’s response has been breath-taking. Musicians, locked-down, isolated and incarcerated, are uploading recordings so that they can be mixed and broadcast for performance: it’s as if the creative spirit can’t be tamed. Highgate’s musicians took over Instagram with performances that, even if they couldn’t be live, made you feel alive: an organ and viola duet, a piano solo, a trumpet reveille – sounds and faces to remind you that this physical disconnect needn’t mean creative silence. I was particularly struck by the virtual choirs: young singers reunited in harmony across the airwaves and there for us to listen and to watch. The connection became somehow all the more powerful and touching with the knowledge of how the beautifully blended sound had reached the conductor-cum-online-alchemist: each performer recording their voices alone, exposed, vulnerable.
‘Here Comes the Sun’, by The Beatles, covered by Highgate School Pupils’ Consort
Just as the castaways on Desert Island Discs find themselves in reflective mode when talking through their musical choices, all of us are asking questions, not least about what a community, what a school, means if you’re living in isolation: the things we take for granted reveal what makes them precious when you’re deprived of them, not certain when or whether you’ll ever get them back. So, things we do together – making music, listening to young people music-making – are pretty high on that list of things which I miss and which give meaning and memory to being part of a school. A resounding bravo to all of Highgate’s musicians, therefore, for keeping us creatively connected! Thank you!
Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso by Y12’s Aris, showcased as part of our Highgate@Home Music Takeover on Instagram