Jess Gillam tells us about music’s power to connect us and looks ahead to the Investec International Music Festival which will take place in Surrey Hills as soon as safely possible.
Music is intrinsic to our humanity. It has been a form of expression since the beginning of time and it has the power to unite, to console us and to bring light in what often seems like a broken world. Music can provide us with a space in which to exist, a place in which to be renewed and perhaps a moment of solace – which is what many people have needed throughout these bleak and uncertain times. Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.
When my diary was wiped clean of concerts, workshops and performances pretty much overnight in the first lockdown, I wanted to try to find a way to unite people and provide a bit of that sense of belonging, identity and hope that music often gives us. So, I set up the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra – an online project publishing parts for different pieces (Let It Be by The Beatles, Where Are We Now by David Bowie and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson) on my website.
Anyone, of any ability, could send in a video of themselves playing along (with a click, of course, to keep us all in time!). We then created an orchestra out of all the videos and then I played along too. It was a big online party for musicians and we had just under 3,000 people aged between two and 95 participating over the three projects.
The response was absolutely fantastic from both participants and the audience, with many people commenting on how the project had given them a sense of community. Although technology can sometimes be endlessly frustrating, it really can (especially in these times) offer us a way to come together on a mass mission!
Thanks also to technology, I also released my second album, TIME, last year. We finished the recording four weeks before the first lockdown. The concept behind the album – to reflect the arc of energy in a passing day and to give listeners a moment away from a manic world seemed to become strangely more pertinent in the weeks to follow. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the album could not be toured but I will perform some of the music from this album at the Investec International Music Festival which I’m excited about!
As we start to move towards a world in which live performances become possible again, I hope we’ll all cherish the direct sense of communication music can provide and that we have missed in recent times. I’ve been lucky enough to give a few concerts to live, socially distanced audiences and in an odd way, these have been some of the most memorable performance experiences of my life so far; the heightened sense of anticipation, communication and sharing in the halls has been so special. Nothing can replace the electrifying energy of live music, which is why I cannot wait to perform in Surrey!
For more details & updates on the 2021 Investec International Music Festival, please visit iimf.co.uk
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