by Hannah, age 12
Our house has always been full of music. My Mum is a pianist, my sister, Alice, aged 10, plays the violin and I play the cello. We have always loved the way music brings people together and enriches their lives. Between us, we take part in a multitude of orchestras and enjoy performing with family and friends. Our Dad, a hospital manager, is our biggest fan, and our cat, Bena, tolerates the music, usually whilst hiding in the camellia pot.
As soon as lockdown was announced, everything was cancelled. Our calendars were turned into blank, whitewashed walls. Classical musicians, orchestras and ensembles all over the world were suffering and so were their audiences. With nothing to do we decided to set up a family trio. What did we have to lose? A cellist, violinist and pianist (and roadie) all living in the same house. We thought that the NHS clap would be the perfect opportunity, though we did take time to prepare our neighbours as we didn’t want to perform to an empty street. In fact, one of our neighbours later said to us, ‘We thought, oh no, this is going to be ‘screech screech’, but actually it was beautiful!’
Soon we began to receive ‘fan mail’. The most wonderful letters came from all over the road, which opened us up to so many new friends. But there weren’t just letters. We were given chocolates, flowers and best of all, homemade crepes! What we loved most was getting to know our neighbours, many of whom were missing their relatives and feeling lonely. After the concerts people would mill about, talking and socialising, while keeping a cautious distance. For most, it was the highlight of the week and we enjoyed sharing the videos with family and friends.
There were many challenges in producing the concerts, week after week. We had to plan where we were going to sit, which stands, instruments and stools we would use. Music stands were troublesome; these precarious pieces of metal are a musician’s nightmare. We were constantly battling with the wind. The best solution was multiple clothes pegs. Some elements were out of our control. We endured helicopters and barking dogs, whilst the audience dodged cars and mopeds. Luckily, the weather was on our side. My sister and I had lots of fun designing flyers, drawing illustrations as well as the slightly tedious process of trying to get our old printer to work.
We worked hard to arrange and rehearse a range of pieces from Boccherini to Disney songs. I particularly enjoyed playing Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, one of the most beautiful pieces of the cello repertoire. My sister was delighted to perform Monti’s famous Czardàs, its fast and exhilarating nature suiting her down to the ground. One of my favourite experiences was performing music from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute. We adorned ourselves with feathers to play the parts of Papageno and Papagena, a bird catcher and his future bride, designed a special flyer and drew chalk pictures outside our front door. Toy birds decorated our new ‘concert hall’.
For the Grand Finale, the last of eight concerts, we were joined by an amazing group of local instrumentalists, who were inspired by our previous concerts. With the help of some of our neighbours we found five flautists, two clarinettists, a cellist and a harpist. Our Mum spent hours arranging Somewhere Over the Rainbow and thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, we were able to put it together at the last minute. I really appreciated the opportunity to play in this socially distanced street orchestra and I had no idea that we lived near so many wonderful young musicians! This just goes to show, even if they shut the concert halls and cancel our orchestra courses, that no virus can stop us from making music.