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Presenting BSO's live music to a global audience

Published 12th March 2021

One of the UK’s best-loved orchestras, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is a professional ensemble known for igniting change both on and off the stage. In 2020, the Orchestra temporarily adapted the way it shared its live music making, from touring ensemble to digital broadcaster, announcing an inaugural series of 12 livestreamed symphonic concerts. With residencies in Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter, Poole and Portsmouth, the BSO is the largest cultural provider in the South West of England serving one of the biggest and most diverse regions. Its first livestreamed series sold over 16,000 digital tickets to households globally, reaching more than concert hall capacity for each of its performances. 

A host of leading classical music presenters front the BSO’s performances, including BBC Radio 3’s Sarah Walker and Martin Handley, Classic FM’s Catherine Bott, producer Nigel Gayler, and musician Ayanna Witter-Johnson.

  
It’s worked incredibly smoothly. The BSO team created a makeshift studio in what’s normally the orchestra lounge (currently deserted of course, as the players are all socially distancing), and I had everything I needed to present the concert: basically, a TV link to the stage so I could see what was going on, headphones and a microphone. I arrived in Poole in the afternoon, listened to the rehearsal, and after a quick tea break we were live on air! 
Well huge thanks are due to star performers like Stephen Hough, Benjamin Grosvenor and Paul Lewis, who generously gave up their time to chat to me. They shared not only some really unique insights into the music, but details of their own personal relationship with the pieces and how it felt to be performing at Lighthouse, Poole during this strange and unsettling time. There was a real feeling of appreciation for the venue and the people at the BSO, for providing opportunities to perform while keeping everyone safe.
  
Working in the performing arts, I think you do get used to being flexible and responding to change. It’s amazing how quickly a team can regroup and figure out the best way to proceed in an unexpected situation, so in a way, it’s business as usual. On the other hand, the speed at which everyone has had to learn new skills during the COVID crisis is quite exceptional. People have dug deep to share every bit of knowledge they have.
The main change I’m hoping for is that we’ll find we have an even bigger audience for the arts. The BSO’s livestreamed concerts will have reached more people than ever, and I hope some of the new fans will come and join us in the flesh, once things get back to normal! But it’s wonderful to know that people who can’t get out for whatever reason can still enjoy the music.
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