When lockdown began, musical life as we know it came to a pause. Over the past months many students will have found that the regular musical activities that they enjoyed are now missing from their new routines. The sound of hundreds of CSG students regularly playing and singing in music lessons, rehearsals and concerts can no longer be heard. As Spring term came to an end without the usual Founder’s Day celebrations, many of us will have missed coming together to sing the school prayer with one another, as well as hearing performances from the orchestra and choir. Had the Summer term happened as normal, we would currently be just days away from the end of term concert and the much anticipated musical theatre production.
Our usual calendar of musical events may have been interrupted, but our students have been finding new and creative ways to continue making music. It seems that technology has a large part to play in our ability to remain connected to one another musically, and in allowing us to continue to develop our musical skills. Perhaps more significantly, the experience of lockdown has caused many of us to rediscover the value of regular musical activity, whether individually or as part of a group.
We hear reports of the growing number of virtual choirs flourishing online, we see astonishing videos of operatic arias sung from the balconies of city streets, and we watch pop stars give live charity performances from their homes. Now more than ever, people are seeking positivity and comfort in music. For students across the country dealing with feelings of uncertainty at the moment, music can be invaluable.
The beneficial effects of making music - aside from music for music’s sake - are well documented. Studies have shown that musical training is associated with an improved ability to cope with anxiety, anger, and other difficult emotions; young people who take part in vocal and instrumental training have been shown to demonstrate greater self-esteem as well as greater empathy toward peers; simply listening to music has also been associated with feelings of general happiness.
During lockdown the CSG Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Choir and Junior Voices have embarked upon virtual performance projects in an effort to continue making music ‘together, whilst apart’. Students have been working from home to record their individual parts in order to create massed performances, and we look forward to sharing these with the school community. Although the experience of making a solo recording at home is a long way from the ‘ensemble-feeling’ we all enjoy, it has been incredibly positive to hear students give such skillful and heartfelt performances. Similarly, students in Year 7, 8 and 9 have also been producing outstanding musical work, from solo performances to original compositions.
Whilst we await the return to normality and the usual busy musical life of the school, it is heartening to know that many CSG students are continuing to make music. We look forward to a time when we will once again be able to share the energy and sense of community we find when making music together.
Here, Year 10 GCSE Music student Maya writes about the highs and lows of making music during lockdown:
Before lockdown, I would attend rehearsal for the school orchestra and chamber choir. Normal rehearsals have stopped, but I have been remotely participating in virtual performances with both groups. As well as doing instrumental lessons on zoom, whilst being in lockdown I’ve been working on composition for Music GCSE -
so I’ve had to learn to adapt to different types of musical software. This has definitely given me more independence and confidence in my work, and helped me to develop my skills as a songwriter.
Using technology for music has been something so many people are familiar with; listening to music on Spotify, watching music videos on YouTube... Of course, I did both of these before lockdown, but now that I have more time I have listened to genres I wouldn’t have usually have chosen - I can also spend time watching documentaries about musicians and filmed concerts.
I have definitely been playing much more music recently, as I have much more free time to practise my instruments (clarinet, piano and voice). Doing choir rehearsals online is very different to rehearsals before, and I very much miss making music with other people!
In many ways, lockdown has allowed me to practise and listen to music much more, but I can’t wait to get back to normal and have face to face instrumental lessons again. However, I am glad that lockdown has given me the opportunity to work on personal compositions and songwriting that I would have otherwise not had much time to do.
I am looking forward to participating in “real” concerts, as this is probably the thing I miss most about making music before quarantine. Concerts and performances are such an enjoyable way to show how much talent our school has, and play music while being with friends, especially when performing as an orchestra or choir. I can’t wait until normality is restored and we can get back to regular performances again!