“Where words fail, music speaks,”
— Hans Christian Andersen
As you are well aware, we are living in a time of great difficulty. A sense of anxiety hangs over our entire world as we face the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although I am currently socially distancing at home in London, my heart is with all of you in Winston-Salem, and I cannot wait to return to conduct the extraordinary musicians who make up the Winston-Salem Symphony.
One thing that has been reinforced during this unprecedented time is the power of art to help heal the soul in times of crisis. To quote the composer Robert Schumann: “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts — such is the duty of an artist.”
As a musician and conductor whose entire career has been in the musical arena, I have experienced music’s ability to bring hope and solace during difficult times. I think, perhaps, this crisis has made that even more clear. I have been struck by the number of truly magical, virtual musical performances that have moved, uplifted and united people the world over. From professional musicians like Andrea Bocelli’s performance on Easter Sunday from the Duomo in Milan to ordinary citizens singing from their balconies in cities and towns all over Italy; from classical performers to jazz, rock and pop stars; from individual performers to symphonies, quartets, choirs, bands and more, musicians have poured their hearts and souls into performances that have been watched by millions of people.
Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma encouraged people around the world to share songs of comfort across social media. I encourage you to search #songsofcomfort. You will find powerful performances from Yo-Yo Ma himself as well as professional and amateur musicians across the globe. I know you will experience comfort, beauty and even joy from all these performances.
And let us not forget the non-classical musicians. Lady Gaga’s “One World: Together at Home” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Jersey 4 Jersey” benefit concerts not only gave us memorable performances, but they also raised much-needed funds to help with the battle against coronavirus.
I am extremely proud of our own Winston-Salem Symphony. Times are difficult for all nonprofit and arts organizations, and we have had to cancel or postpone our concerts in April and May. This poses significant financial challenges for us and has a tremendous effect, not only on our staff and organization, but also on our musicians, many of whom have effectively lost all sources of income for the foreseeable future.
But in the midst of all this, the Winston-Salem Symphony has been working tirelessly to find ways to help and support the Winston-Salem community during the pandemic. We have been posting and will continue to post musical events and listening opportunities online on Facebook (@wssymphony) and YouTube, and archived on our website, wssymphony.org. Every Monday night at 8 p.m., you can enjoy “Musician Moments,” which feature a performance by a Winston-Salem Symphony musician. On Friday evenings at 8 p.m., tune in for “Camera 1,” which features previously recorded concerts, broken out into movements. We also will be periodically streaming some special events.
Confucius said, “Music produces a kind of pleasure that human nature cannot do without.” In this time of personal distancing, when we have the potential to feel isolated and alone, music can keep us connected. I hope you will join me, the Winston-Salem Symphony and all the musicians around the world as we seek to offer hope and solace during this pandemic.