Since 1994, Wigmore Hall’s celebrated Learning programme has given people of all ages and backgrounds opportunities to take part in creative music making, enabling people who face barriers to taking part to be creative and express themselves through quality, co-created music making in safe, equal spaces. And this commitment has only been strengthened during the huge challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wigmore Hall may have closed its doors in March, but since then it has developed a range of innovative and impactful remote activity for some of those most isolated and hardest hit by the pandemic, working in partnership with a range of dedicated and skilled musicians, workshop leaders and partner organisations, whose creativity and willingness to experiment has been integral to this new way of working.
Music for Life, its sector-leading programme for people living with dementia, now includes regular online creative music workshops and choirs, as well as 1:1 phone calls for those who are unable to access the internet. Working with people living at home and with care homes, the wellbeing of people living with dementia and their carers is more important than ever as we live through and emerge from these extraordinary times. Participants say the sessions help them feel “less isolated”, part of a “unified group” and describe the experience of taking part as “uplifting” and “inspiring”.
“Every Tuesday I feel inspired. It just is extraordinary what has emerged from this weekly meeting, it is absolutely wonderful. Thank you.” Singing with Friends (details below)
Come and Create, its ensemble of young musicians with Autism Spectrum Conditions, continues online, offering a safe space for young people to connect, share music and create pieces together.
Some members of the Come and Create ensemble taking part in an online session
Chamber Tots at Home has enabled families with children under five to come together to sing, dance and listen to live music in online adventures into space.
Online Chamber Tots session
Music leaders preparing for Chamber Tots, available at: https://twitter.com/lucy_drever/status/1283356357547237382?s=20
“The content was excellent ... Having live music performance was exciting for our child and us parents alike. Attention to individual children by the teachers was precious.” Parent
Wigmore Hall Learning also launched its Music at Home resource hub, which provides a range of free creative music-making activities, resources and concert live streams for families, teachers and learners.
“It was accessible to everyone and the children were really imaginative and creative in their approach to finding instruments and using body percussion to produce sounds. They were able to share their finished compositions on our learning platform, giving an opportunity for performance, collaboration and feedback. This was a fantastic way to get the pupils engaged and motivated in this new style of education we are all now exploring” Teacher, on the Create your own Musical World resource
Wigmore Hall Learning is now reconnecting with its partners at Cardinal Hume Centre, Solace Women's Aid and Chelsea Community Hospital School in order to once again engage people in creative music making who have experienced homelessness and poverty, women and children who have experienced domestic violence, and children and young people in hospital. It will also revive its pioneering Partner Schools Programme, to once again co-create activity that responds to the needs and aims of schools and Music Education Hubs - aims which have changed significantly, and which music can play a huge role in achieving.
Wigmore Hall’s Learning Director, Daisy Swift, said, “We are passionate about giving people who face barriers opportunities to take part in creative music making. In 2020, these opportunities are more important than ever. It has been an incredibly challenging year and we have been working hard to ensure that people can still make connections through – and to – music.”
Wigmore Hall’s Director, John Gilhooly, said, “I was sad that we had to suspend our learning activity in early lockdown, but these creative digital solutions have helped us to reach out and connect. Music and the arts can play a vital role in the national recovery from this pandemic. Everybody is entitled to participate in the arts, if they want to engage, and more than ever the arts can play a vital role in the wellbeing of the nation.”
Wigmore Hall Learning has continued to lead a range of activity remotely with Music for Life throughout lockdown, with innovative developments to the programme enabling meaningful and creative connections to happen remotely between people living with dementia, their families, and musicians.
The Singing with Friends choir in partnership with Resonate Arts meets online weekly and as well as singing, sessions include social time and live performances from guest musicians from the Royal Academy of Music. 27 people living with dementia and their carers take part, and for the few who cannot join online, the option of singing together with musicians over the phone has been taken up readily.
“I think the Zoom [sessions] worked really well…[they] make you feel more of a unified group, and not so isolated…[we] were already in isolation because of lockdown and I think this is a really nice way of bringing everybody together.” Singing with Friends participant
“I think it's enormous fun. I've enjoyed it right from the beginning…I really loved it. I'm sitting in my sitting room and doing it feeling very warm. It's warm outside, but I feel warm inside, inside me.” Singing with Friends participant
Wigmore Hall Learning and Resonate Arts also lead a ‘musical befrienders’ scheme to engage with people living with dementia who are living at home and at risk of isolation.
Wigmore Hall Learning leads Monday Afternoons, fortnightly online group sessions for people with young onset dementia and their families. Participants help to shape the sessions alongside musicians, and together the group explore musical improvisation, movement, poetry, and songwriting. Participants have commented on how the online sessions helped them during lockdown: “I love the fact that these Zoom sessions are keeping us all in touch – actually they help keep me sane!”, “It took me somewhere else, like through an open window … to a place with lots of open space.”
“Having the Zoom sessions really help at this time … These sessions are bringing back happy memories of … making music together... I love the fact that these Zoom sessions are keeping us all in touch – actually they help keep me sane! ...I’ve been having a down day today, this really picked me up and put me back in that room with everybody” Monday Afternoons participant
In July, Wigmore Hall Learning reconnected with its care home partners and began leading remote activity that aims to support the wellbeing of the care home staff and residents – all of whom are emerging from an incredibly challenging time. This includes 1:1 online sessions between musicians and residents who are unable to leave their rooms and choir sessions which bring together residents across the home. Other remote activity including interactive concerts and creative group sessions with staff and residents is planned to take place over the coming months.
Since July, Wigmore Hall Learning has been leading fortnightly online sessions with our Come and Create band for young people on the autism spectrum. Led by our team of music leaders, the group have embraced co-creating music online together and have been busy creating musical responses to the recent storms and sounds around the home.
Some members of the Come and Create ensemble taking part in an online session
In August Wigmore Hall led two Chamber Tots sessions, our interactive music workshops for families with children under 5. The sessions took participants in a musical adventure up into space and featured singing, dancing, prop making and an encounter with an alien! Families were treated to live music and took part in co-creating music. Further sessions will take place throughout autumn (see link below).
“My 3 year old really loved the story of visiting all the different planets and creating her own rocket from our household items. This was very immersive for her.” Parent
Chamber Tots workshop participant
Notes to Editors
For more on Wigmore Hall Learning: https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/learning
For details of forthcoming ticketed events: https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/learning/forthcoming-learning-events
Wigmore Hall Learning Music at Home Resource Hub: https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/musicathome