Entries by Tom Kemp

Reaching New Audiences Online – A Steep Learning Curve

The covid pandemic has completely decimated the arts.  Concerts are about bringing people together to enjoy a shared experience: covid has achieved the opposite! The inability to plan ahead with any certainty has made it very difficult for arts organisations to move forwards.  Yet, despite the gloom, it has enabled us to reflect and look at new ways of working.

For Music@Malling, it has led to the development of online activities and to experiment with new ways of reaching audiences. 2020 saw Music@Malling develop its digital offer with a new website and an online festival enabling audiences to enjoy concerts and outreach from the comfort of their homes! Some of these events reached very large numbers of people and were a terrific advert for our activities.  For example, West Malling by Drone has had over 25k views on the Classic FM Facebook page and the festival was included in their round up of top online events internationally and described as “a wonderful music festival.”

The new website with its videos, play lists, shop, blog and box office received over 6000 visits in a three month period, many people exploring the site for the first time.  Our Facebook and Twitter posts were very popular and reached thousands of people.

Online outreach events included Go Compose which engaged 9 young musicians from across the country in a composition project: writing a piece in a day mentored by composer Simon Speare.  It was really inspiring to see and hear creativity and imagination shining through!

The virtual concert can be viewed here:  https://vimeo.com/469008942/2a44888923

45 singers from the UK and Europe took part in Zoom workshop with world renowned choir Tenebrae and their director Nigel Short.

Eleanor Alberga – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was recorded remotely by 20 musicians and narrator Matthew Sharp and this is available on our website as a podcast.  This was a very ambitious (possibly mad) undertaking and will be developed into a film for use in primary schools with resources for teachers that will be available for the Summer 2021.

Concerts covered 400 years of music from Dowland through to contemporary music by Mark-Anthony Turnage CBE and Brian Elias.

“2020 has been a disaster for musicians with many losing all their work and 40% receiving no help from the government.  It was fantastic to offer online concerts and proper fees to our brilliant musicians, many of whom have performed every year since Music@Malling started in 2011. Lets hope 2021 is a better year for everyone.”  Thomas Kemp

An article by Thomas Kemp about the challenges of setting up an online festival appeared in The Strad and can be viewed here:  https://www.thestrad.com/playing-and-teaching/10-tips-for-taking-festivals-online/11437.article

James Pearson – Artistic Director of Ronnie Scotts comments: “Having played at nearly every M@M festival since its inception, last year was like no other.  The audience were physically invisible but spiritually present. I actually really enjoyed the challenge of having to play and create the right energy as a performer, with no  live audience to draw that energy from.  The church at Malling is a special place and I suppose that having played there several times before I was able to imagine a few smiling faces… well they certainly weren’t any frowns – in my mind!  I was particularly impressed with the filming and sound –  the quality was second to none and they made it very easy for us as performers to feel at home.”

Local concert pianist, Daniel Grimwood writes: “The last year hasn’t exactly been a dream come true for any musicians. The cancellation of most concerts was a blow, the feeling that all the work that had gone into those cancelled concerts was hard to overcome (although no work is ever really wasted).”

“But the limitations of these times have also brought lessons and opportunities in unexpected places. I now know how to cut my own hair and create recipes from the most unlikely combinations of ingredients!””I had been booked to perform at the Music at Malling Festival for some time before everything changed, and fully expected it to be cancelled along with everything else, but thanks to the enthusiastic and indomitable spirit of Thomas Kemp, the festival did happen online.”

“Of course, recording a live concert with no audience is tremendously difficult. Performers are all conditioned by expectations created by edited recordings and it isn’t easy to accept wrong notes in the same way that we do in a concert where once the moment has passed, it is forever gone. But this is where we are at, and it has been a valuable lesson in modesty. The fact that we as performers have been able to connect with an audience, albeit one we can’t see, is really special, and I hope that it was as uplifting an experience for those listening as it was for me on the other side of the camera.”

All the concerts will be available on www.musicatmalling.com to watch for free in 2021 and will provide a record of a very challenging year! Go to the Festival page and watch for free!

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Partnership with the Royal Academy of Music

Music@Malling are delighted to be working in partnership with the Royal Academy of Music.  One of the world’s leading conservatoires, Music@Malling will be offering performance opportunities and mentoring to help some of the most talented young musicians at the start of their careers. Full information to follow.

Six Brandenburgs: Six Commissions April 2022

Six Brandenburgs: Six Commissions will be held 23rd and 24th April 2022. Chamber Domaine perform the Six Brandenburg Concertos in the iconic setting of Malling Abbey. New works by Brian Elias, Joe Phibbs, Deborah Pritchard, Stevie Wishart, Daniel Kidane and Michael Price. A fascinating snapshot of British contemporary music! Further details to be announced soon.

Save the Dates for Music@Malling 2021!!!

Save the dates for our 2021 festival.  The outside dates are 23rd September – 3rd October and full details will be available in the summer.  All events are subject to funding and covid restrictions but there will definitely be something to look forward to live and online!

Ambache Trust Supports Eleanor Alberga – Revolting Rhymes Project

We are delighted that the Ambache Trust is supporting our Revolting Rhymes Project.  The project features a recording of Eleanor Alberga – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This recording was made remotely in 2020 and will be turned into a film.  The Revolting Rhymes project will include interactive materials for schools online and a series of workshops in local schools in Summer 2021. The school workshops will be led by Jason Rowland and run in conjunction with Kent Music.

The Ambache Trust is active in raising the profile of women composers by funding people who promote their music to the widest possible circle.

The Revolting Rhymes project will introduce the music of Eleanor Alberga to new audiences and will involve up to 20 primary schools and will be available online at www.musicatmalling.com

At Home with Music@Malling – Welcome

The Covid Pandemic will continue to have a profound effect on the way we all do things for some time to come. For many, it has made us rethink what we value and what is really important.  Health and wellbeing can no longer be taken for granted and neither can those that work tirelessly for the sick, vulnerable or elderly. The lockdown has had a profound affect on the Arts. All live events cancelled: museums, theatres, concert halls, libraries, stately homes – shut. Many festivals and concert seasons are postponed for the foreseeable future.  

Musicians thrive on live performance and rely on it for their living. The lack of work has been devastating and continues to be so – socially distanced concerts are not viable and will never replace the buzz of a full house where people of all walks of life come together to enjoy a shared musical experience. 

However despite the emotional and financial impact of the crisis, it has created new opportunities and ways of doing things. 

For Music@Malling, the easiest thing to do would be to cancel all events and wait for things to return back to normal.  The problem is, nobody knows when a return to “normal” or what a “new normal” will actually be: they are just words that do not convey clarity or timescale.  It is an evolving situation and will continue to be so.

With schools being shut since March, many young people have had no access to musical activities. By doing nothing, musicians, audiences and young people will lose out and all that we have developed since 2011 would be dissipated and compromised.

During the lockdown, the decision was made for Music@Malling to embrace technology and find new ways of developing audiences and outreach online.  With significant financial and practical support from Arts Council England, we are proud to be able to develop online resources, outreach events and concerts that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.  Moving forwards, when live events return – which they will do eventually – all our activities will have an online element.  

By developing our website and how we use technology, we will be able to reach new audiences, engage people that cannot attend our live events and enable young people from a much wider area to participate in our year around outreach programme.  It will act as a showcase for West Malling and its surrounding villages and provide a model of how a local community can have a thriving music festival and outreach programme that has regional, national and international significance. The potential is huge and extremely exciting!

From 17th-20th October 2020 we will have a virtual festival with concerts available on pay per view basis on our website. 

All our educational events are free and there are a series of curated videos and outreach events that will run throughout the year.  Looking forward to 2021, we have the Six Brandenburgs: Six Commissions at Malling Abbey and Turnage at 60 – a celebration of one of the most renowned contemporary composers. Hopefully these will be with a live audience – fingers crossed!

Please sign up for our monthly newsletter which will have full details of forthcoming events.

We have also developed an online shop where you can purchase limited edition items.  Every purchase will contribute towards our programme of concerts and outreach.

If you enjoy our activities – especially the many free ones – please donate.  Everything that you give will massively help us develop our activities and bring the joy of music to more people.

I am delighted that we are able to have a virtual festival this October – we are all looking forward to the buzz of performing and bringing excellence to your homes live and online.

Let’s use this terrible pandemic as an opportunity for change and innovation!!

Thomas Kemp – Artistic Director

Malling Abbey Video

During this time when we cannot offer live concerts the Sisters invite you to spend some time soaking up the peaceful atmosphere of the Abbey in their film “Horarium”, which they have recently released. It features many striking and beautiful images of our life, accompanied by the voices of sisters talking about the joys and challenges of our life. You can find it here:https://youtu.be/pz2MuLSXUVM

Brandenburg Project – Postponed

“Due to the recent Corona Virus Pandemic and the resulting lock down, Music@Malling have decided to postpone The Six Brandenburgs: Six Commissions outreach and concerts. We hope to reschedule this very exciting project soon and wish all our artists, audiences and supporters all the best for the coming weeks ahead.” Thomas Kemp – Artistic Director Alan Gibbins – Chairman