Countertenor Andrew Watts issues a call to arms. Read his words about turning our energies towards a new version of art and culture.
Original article published at The Enormity of Now
My name is Andrew Watts. I was singing opera, concerts and recitals throughout the world until Covid-19 bought a temporary pause - I hope that it will be temporary - to my activities. I am also Professor of Singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and this part of my working life is now online. I play the piano, the clarinet, saxophone, flute and harmonium.
These days my singing and performing activities are confined to my studio at home whilst teaching or in the shower when I let rip under the hot water simply to check that something is still alive in my throat. I have noticed that I have no less enthusiasm and am re-inventing my own singing which I hope will hold me in good stead going forward once theatres and concerts halls re-open and I am invited back in.
We can not wait any longer. We have to take things into our own hands and rise up and make the case that culture, art and music is a vital part of society and community.
I always considered myself very realistic about the prospect of losing the performing part of my life. I do not feel the need to bombard the internet with videos of myself singing from my home although some of these posts have buoyed me along the way.
As I get older, I think about what the future will look like. As singers, we are fully aware that we have a “shelf life”. During this pandemic I did not know how angry and frustrated I would be without any performing outlet. Cut off in my prime perhaps? The sense of frustration is further compounded by watching our musical institutions and organisations grapple with what is described as the “new normal” or as they simply bury their heads in the sand waiting for “normal“ to return. A lack of clear guidance from our government has made any ongoing planning very difficult. We simply do not know where we stand. Is this still lockdown? Was there ever really a lockdown? Who is in charge of what? A cultural commission without involving leading musical figures speaks volumes on how this present government sees us in the creative arts and especially in music.
We can not wait any longer. We have to take things into our own hands and rise up and make the case that culture, art and music is a vital part of society and community. We need to make our collective voices heard and try new approaches knowing that we may fail but we can succeed. This is the perfect moment in time to re-invent and re-imagine the whole landscape of art and culture. We need to demand that as a society and community we are able to lay the foundations for a new version of art and culture as we, the artists, see it. We must be a force for exquisitely well-crafted and artistically led programming with far reaching diverse inclusivity. There are no half measures for this anymore. We need action and we need to be doing it now.
It is going to be an almighty uphill struggle and one that we will have to endure for years. That said, it will leave a tangible and lasting legacy for generations to follow.