Senior Creative Producer Stuart Bruce reflects on Hear and Now: Collection - a 20-minute film featuring music and visual imagery gathered throughout online workshops with participants from our Hear and Now project co-produced with the Philharmonia during 2020.
Having evolved over more than ten years through a succession of artistic collaborations and remarkable live performances, Hear and Now is an intergenerational project we were determined to continue when the pandemic hit, not least because it brings together young and vulnerable older people in diverse communities, fulfilling an important social support and integration role as well as providing inspiration and emotional wellbeing. Research by Anglia Ruskin University (currently being published in Public Health journal) has recognised the value of Hear and Now in terms of supporting positive relationships and positive emotions amongst those involved. We needed to find a way of working in the digital realm that participants could understand and enjoy, preserving relationships and combatting loneliness through music-making from the safety of people’s own homes.
It started as a small-scale R&D stage, led by composer Tim Steiner and Philharmonia musicians, trialling ways of using Zoom creatively with a few participants. This was followed by a more extended series of workshops involving over 120 people, with film maker Jessie Rodger joining artistic team to guide the visual side of the project.
Whilst there were certainly challenges with working online, it actually presented lots of positive opportunities too. For the first time it was possible to bring together the separate Hear and Now groups from the Philharmonia’s residencies in Bedford and Leicester, enabling people living 65 miles apart to get to know each other and make music together. The absence of travel costs meant the project budget could sustain an increased number of workshops through the autumn. And through the Orchestra’s residency at the Southbank Centre, Hear and Now participants in digital poverty were able to access Art By Post booklets and even co-curate a music edition of these posted resources, giving an additional way for people to feel connected and have a voice.
The months of creativity and learning resulted in Hear and Now: Collection, a 20-minute piece of music and film in four movements, all featuring material gathered and developed through the workshops, underpinned by an orchestral soundtrack recorded by the Philharmonia. References to Beethoven’s music in Tim Steiner’s score highlighted the way in which the Classical genius found solace and expression through music whilst suffering his own traumatic isolation through deafness, a poignant parallel with the isolation of the Covid era.
The film was premiered on 22 April in an online welcome event that included a Q&A session by key production partners and some participants, giving the audience insight into the long creative journey we had all made.
Somehow watching the film again after our discussion was even more meaningful and I needed even more tissues to mop up the tears! Thank you all so much.
~ Karen Stephenson, Philharmonia cellist
Watch the film:
In my opinion, the beauty of the film reflects both the positive, joyful way in which everyone approached the slightly chaotic process, and the way in which the high production values which are a hallmark of Hear and Now were maintained. This was not a limited, lesser version of previous live projects but a new kind of artistic work with its own special character - a fitting celebration of people's resilience and imagination in the most challenging of times.
Hear and Now in Bedford is produced by the Philharmonia and Orchestras Live, and delivered in partnership with Tibbs Dementia Foundation’s Music 4 Memory and Fusion Youth Singing. Hear and Now in Leicester is supported by De Montfort University and delivered in partnership with Leicester Musical Memory Box and local primary schools.