The Second Violin

A conductor stands in front of an orchestra with his back to the camera

COVID-19 has threatened the livelihood of conductors and musicians - Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF

The arrival of Covid has provided an enormous challenge on every level.

For the professional orchestra it has threatened the careers and livelihoods of conductors and musicians as well as the huge array of people from a multitude of industries who enable every performance to take place.

Equally important is the loss of being able to go and listen to live music in wonderful venues with friends and family.

Amateur orchestras have also felt the impact of Covid, none more so than the Exmouth Light Orchestra. Established in 2011 it has up to 60 members and an ethos on getting together with fellow musicians to play a diverse range of music and have some fun doing so.

The fact that we were able to have our concert albeit in a virtual format is down to the wonders of technology and the determination of John and Daphne Harlock who run the Exmouth Light Orchestra. No one envisaged that two months into 2020 our new normal would be ‘logging on’ for the weekly rehearsal.

Music is very social. It’s composed with the intention of being played by a musician and to be heard by an audience. When asked if he’d played or practiced much during the first lockdown a fellow musician said simply ‘I just couldn’t see the point’.

With so many people working from home, shielding and self-isolating, loneliness has sadly become part of everyday life and is affecting more people than ever. Having a couple of rehearsals each week provide structure and social interaction in a week that might otherwise seem quiet and gives a focus for practicing in the interim.

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For our orchestra none of this would be possible without John and Daphne who with all their counterparts up and down the country have kept clubs, societies, music groups and choirs running. All of these unsung heroes have embraced technology as never before and with hard graft and ingenuity have given countless numbers of individuals the chance to keep in touch with fellow musicians and to ensure the music continues to play on.

To round off 2019 we had our usual Christmas concert, the culmination of months of work and practice. As always there were carols, mince pies, mulled wine, some questionable festive head wear and Christmas jumpers. However, due to the Covid pandemic sweeping across the world this concert was far from usual. Due to restrictions each of us played from our own home with only family listening in.

Orchestras have long been associated with tradition and many have a heritage which has stood the test of time over decades. Who can forget the tenacity of the band of the Titanic which continued to play on to encourage calm as the liner listed and passengers scrambled to board the life boats.