Live classical music to return in London... at a distance
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Live classical music to return in London... at a distance
British pianist Stephen Hough at Carnegie Hall in New York, Jan. 28, 2013. Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times.

LONDON (AFP).- One of Britain's leading classical music venues on Tuesday announced a programme of live concerts as the country eases out of lockdown measures, featuring virtuosos such as pianist Mitsuko Uchida.

A total of 20 concerts lasting up to an hour each will be broadcast live on BBC radio and on livestream around the world from June 1 from the Wigmore Hall in central London.

But the venue stressed that strict social distancing measures would remain in place, as it partially re-opens for the first time since the lockdown began in late March.

Some of the world's leading musicians will perform solo recitals or as a duo without an audience, and with only a maximum of four staff, including a sound engineer, present.

New government guidelines published on Monday envisage "cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast" from next month.

But they stipulate they can only take place without the risk of "large-scale social contact".

Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly said the concerts would take place "under the strictest possible conditions".

"The health and safety of our staff and the musicians will always be Wigmore Hall's foremost concern," he added in a statement.

Music venues, theatres, museums and art galleries across Britain were all ordered to shut, and annual festivals were cancelled, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month the Creative Industries Federation representative body warned the government Britain could become a "cultural wasteland" without urgent financial help.

More support was needed for self-employed actors and performers unable to access government rescue plans, and venues at risk from a lack of revenue, it said.

It cited research that one in seven organisations had reserves to last until the end of April, and only half had resources to last beyond June.

BBC Radio 3 is the corporation's classical music channel. Its controller, Alan Davey, said the absence of live music had affected musicians unable to play and audiences at home.

"It's a great joy to restore this service to the nation whilst also ensuring maximum health and safety," he added.

The first concert on June 1 will be a piano recital by Stephen Hough. Other performers include pianist Mitsuko Uchida, and opera singers Iestyn Davies and Mark Padmore.

© Agence France-Presse

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