MELBOURNE DIGITAL CONCERT HALL: INNOVATION IN TIME OF INFECTION

Melbourne Digital Concert Hall is a new social enterprise run by musicians, for musicians. It was conceived to support the arts industry during the COVID-19 crisis and to provide a means for classical soloists and small ensembles to continue their profession.

Co-Directors Chris Howlett and Adele Schonhardt launched the platform last week in response to distressing news of colleagues faced with a complete loss of income.

‘We couldn’t just sit there and do nothing,’ explains Howlett. ‘With venues closing and seasons cancelled, the Australian arts sector will experience losses in the billions. Soloists and small ensembles are particularly vulnerable because they rely heavily on freelance work. Adele shared my concern, so we created MDCH.’

In the coming weeks, the site will broadcast a range of concerts online with the support of presenting partner 5stream​. Each will be performed once at a set time, just like a regular recital, and will be professionally video streamed at no cost to the musicians involved.

‘Seats’ will be sold online, with the full $20 ticket price going directly to the artists. A modest booking fee of $4 will cover transaction costs and contribute towards a piano tuner and broadcast technician.

MDCH will remain fully compliant with Government health and safety recommendations and can readily adapt to new conditions. ‘We’re busily compiling a library of pre-recorded concerts for periods when we can’t broadcast live,’ says Howlett. ‘We have a number of available locations and are also exploring options for technical partners so that we can continue to support Australian artists, even if we are in full isolation.’

Howlett and Schonhardt are forming a strong network of supporters to underpin the project. ‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people,’ says Schonhardt. ‘​Kawai leaped to our aid with the offer of a concert grand piano for as long as required,’ she adds. ‘This inspiring gesture will not only boost the wellbeing of local musicians, but will also provide comfort for classical music lovers who find themselves in isolation.’

‘The creation of Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, is proof just how resilient the music and arts community can be,’ says ​Warrick Baker​, National Sales and Marketing Manager at Kawai. ‘In times of uncertainty there is one thing that society resorts to – music.

‘Be it, big business through to sole performing artists, we are all in this together,’ he adds. ‘Anything we can do as a product manufacturer to keep music alive in society and give artists the ability to generate income, we will help wherever we can.’

Top quality is assured thanks to ​5stream – a company known for its expertise in broadcasting major arts and sporting events. Managing Director ​Tim Kelly says: ‘We are delighted to support the artistic community – musicians, audiences and administrators – by providing the highest quality live streaming of performances over the coming weeks.‘We have long advocated to increase the reach of outstanding local performances to audiences beyond the concert hall,’ he continues. ‘Now is a rare chance to come together online as a community to support and
celebrate all aspects of the arts.’

Musica Viva Australia has also thrown its support behind the project. ‘Musica Viva was founded by musicians and, as we develop our own support for the artists we work with today, we’re delighted to partner with Adele and Chris on this new initiative,’ says CEO​ Hywel Sims​.

‘Adele is a long-standing member of the Musica Viva team and we’re proud to support a valued colleague in this exciting program. As Australia’s only truly national performing arts organisation, with offices and touring activity in every state and territory, we will help explore ways to take this national.’

Season opener starring local favourites Melbourne Digital Concert Hall will launch with an ​online music festival from ​27-29 March ​featuring some of Melbourne’s leading soloists and small ensembles, with a plan to broadcast concerts each weekend throughout the coming months. The programming will showcase the full spectrum of artists who’ve lost work due to COVID–19, with well over 50 enquiries already received.

In a series of one-hour sessions, audiences will enjoy the music of stellar artists such as Arcadia Winds, pianists Stefan Cassomenos and Tristan Lee, Baroque ensemble Latitude 37, cellist Zoe Knighton, pianist Elyane Laussade, piano-vocal duo Andrea Katz and Nicholas Dinopoulos, and pianist Kristian Chong.

With long experience in performance, artistic planning, broadcasting and arts management, Howlett and Schonhardt are well placed to support their colleagues and are glad to offer their services. They would like to thank founding partners 5stream, Kawai, Musica Viva Australia, 3MBS Fine Music Melbourne, Limelight and CutCommon​, who all share their goal of providing hope during this devastating time.

Bookings and details:​ ​www.melbournedigitalconcerthall.com​ ​, Ph 0408 339 145 (Chris)

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