Health & wellbeing

The Power of Performance – Why Online Musical Events are a Special Experience

30 Jun 2022 | Written by By Caroline Harrison

Where it all began 

I first approached the viola at age 11, having been playing the violin regularly by that time. I was told I had big hands, meaning perhaps the viola would suit me and I have never looked back since. 

I love the warm tone of the instrument. I studied at the Royal Academy of Music and when I left I had a short time with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra before taking up the position of Co Principal viola with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which brought me great joy – enough to keep me playing there for 30 years. During that time I toured the world both with the Orchestra and as a chamber musician and soloist playing with various ensembles. 

Last year, I left the BBC to pursue a more varied musical life which includes very much my online recitals. 


Moving music online

My idea to offer live Zoom recitals was inspired by a friend of mine Clarissa who had had a stroke and was housebound at the end of a country lane. She loved music and I would go and visit her play to her for 15 to 20 minutes and have a cup of tea. It occurred to me at the time that there must be so many people who feel isolated that this would be a great thing to do for others when I had more time.

Lockdown arrived not long after this and I realised it would be a special thing to be able to deliver live music via Zoom into people’s homes, many of whom had the feeling of isolation during lockdown. I had no idea if this would work but with the help of Jane Slade at Retiremove we decided to make it happen. 


Getting started 

I began in Churchill retirement villages, initially once a week, but it was so popular that along with a colleague of mine, Carolyn, I organised two recitals a week during the long lockdown right into the summer of 2021 and also started more recitals at Audley Villages. As restrictions lifted it was obvious that no one wanted to give up on this and the recitals have continued on a monthly basis ever since. It was at the end of 2021 I was introduced to the marvellous The Joy Club and we have been having some wonderful Tuesday lunch experiences since the beginning of 2022.

It’s such a pleasure to see both new listeners and regular faces at these recitals and share our love of music. 



Performing through a screen 

Performing music in this way has been an incredibly fascinating and rewarding journey. Playing live to people is what musicians love to do, to give the joy of music and experience the reaction from your audience. One of the best aspects of being a musician is that you have perhaps been able to brighten someone’s day, which is a feeling like no other, and while performing via Zoom does have its limitations, so much of that joy remains.

Performing through a computer to be played through the laptop audio of those listening might mean you don’t have an acoustic to work with so the sound isn’t true. Equally, fickle internet connection can cause delay and interference from time to time. Ultimately, however, these bumps don’t detract from the feeling that you are giving a true performance with the added benefit of being able to meet and get to know your listeners in conversation before and after the performances, which is a unique and special experience. Perhaps strangely, in this way, Zoom performances can sometimes feel more intimate and create a stronger connection between the musician and the audience than shows in huge auditoriums and concert halls. 



The music I love to play

If you come to one of my recitals you can expect to hear a diverse range of classical and light music. I play Schubert, Hofffmeister, Elgar, Telemann, Bach as well as some lighter options such as the theme from Ladies in Lavender,  Moon River, Elvis Presley and other popular themes that work well on the warm tone of the viola. It’s very informal and I enjoy meeting you all for a chat at the end. 

I hope to see you there soon!

Caroline’s next live performance for The Joy Club is this coming Tuesday, 5th July. Click here to book your place now and find out for yourself what the experience is like.  

Want to continue reading?

This piece is part of our exclusive articles for members. We post new interviews, features and stories every single day, so sign up to continue reading - today and every day!

Sign up and start your free trial today

Already a member? Log in to read the full post