Bucking the trends of an arts industry harshly disrupted by Covid-19
Durban and Johannesburg’s major orchestras say they’re bucking the trends of an arts industry harshly disrupted by Covid-19.
This article was originally published in the Daily Maverick
According to the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZN Phil), a mammoth R2-million in ticket sales were “forfeited” through their cancelled winter season.
Nonetheless, CEO and artistic director Bongani Tembe told Daily Maverick that the orchestras’ models have allowed for staff compensation. Describing himself as an “eternal optimist”, the long-time classical music entrepreneur insists there “should” be “enough” in the kitty to “carry the orchestras into the next financial year”.
If this proves the case, it would be a welcome success story while some of the industry’s most established players are wondering if they’ll make it through the coming weeks.
In terms of staying power, Tembe has a sturdy concertmaster in Miroslav Chakaryan, a Bulgarian-born violinist from a musical family who has led the JPO since 2001.
Chakaryan has called on one of his greatest career lessons to see himself through the global shutdown.
“I’ve learnt the importance of staying in one place for a long time,” he said. “The memories of my performances have been a constant companion to me during the lockdown.”
For him, classical music presents the “highest level of human spirituality” — “it’s existed as an art form for centuries and I believe and truly hope it’ll continue to exist in its purest form far into the future”. He tacitly acknowledges, however, the line between staying put and stagnating. To avoid crossing that line, the violinist said he believes the JPO has to “start somewhere to develop a digital audience”.
To better understand how the pandemic has hastened the need for industry change, Daily Maverick asked Tembe how both orchestras’ standard and growing digital models may sustain them during torrid times.