As we face uncertain times, we look for comfort in our new communities, networks fashioned from the digital, the virtual and the distant. We are creating bonds built through keyboards and live streams, fostering a sense of togetherness that breaks down borders of geography and creates new avenues for connection.
Leading the way are some of our largest and most recognised institutions, cultural heavyweights who are making a pilgrimage to digital. These are places that thrive off the tangible and the present, whose ability to continue on in a self-isolating world seemed under threat just weeks ago. And yet the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) have risen like phoenixes from the ashes, with digital offerings that look set to see them connect with fans the world over.
For the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the last few weeks have been a shock to the system. Like all of us, they watched as their plans and schedules disappeared into a void of uncertainty and wondered what they could do to replace any cancellations. Enter live streaming and video recording, which presented exciting new ways to bring music to their members, ticketholders and fans.
For Managing Director Sophie Galaise, the lockdowns have provided MSO with an opportunity to pivot their business model and connect the Orchestra to a whole new audience. With two live streamed concerts under their belt (beginning March 16th), the team have already reached in excess 70,000 people from countries around the globe, the equivalent of selling out Melbourne’s Hammer Hall 28 times.
With tougher lockdowns well and truly on the horizon, MSO have prepared a library of video content for their fans and subscribers, with new concerts being added to their YouTube channel weekly. For Galaise, this is about more than just keeping the Orchestra going, with music playing an integral role in breaking down feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“Music provides people a chance to form an emotional connection,” she said. “We are in a position to bring hope to people, to let them know that there will be opportunities to be together in a room once again.”
Similarly, the National Gallery of Victoria is open to virtual visitors throughout this period, with the majority of their collection now available to view online. From digital collections, a dedicated app, and a library of essays accessible to the public, audiences can discover the NGV like never before, all without getting out of bed. This digitisation has not forgotten the millions of children also in need of distractions, with activity sheets and games available to help promote active thinking and hands on creativity.
For those who miss the feeling of wandering around a gallery, NGV are offering bespoke experiences, with their latest exhibitions available as curator-led virtual tours. Audiences are able to zoom into artworks and engage in the immersive walk throughs, with behind the scenes documentaries and interviews on hand to provide new learnings and unseen perspectives on the works.
Like music, art has a role to play in offering the wider community comfort, solace and inspiration through challenging times. Whether it’s revisiting favourite works or making new discoveries, groups like the NGV and the MSO provide people with opportunities to escape their spatial boundaries and make connections through creative compositions. So too, these initiatives also provide chances for the community to support their favourite cultural institutions, to engage with their digital offerings at a time where physical presence is near impossible.