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Celebrating the Musical Creativity of the COVID-19 Lockdowns

Dr Elvis singing during Covid lockdowns
Dr Elvis singing during Covid lockdowns

Three years on since the first lockdown, in-person musical activity has - with a few exceptions - more or less returned to the way it was pre-COVID.

For all the difficulties and tragedies of the period, one thing that did happen was a flourishing of musical creativity. Despite the restrictions and the challenges, people found creative to musically connect with one another during that strange time. Here we celebrate a few of them.

Italian Balcony Music

In the early days of the lockdown, a heartwarming video from Italy showcased neighbors engaging in impromptu musical performances from their balconies. Never in most of our lifetimes had communal music-making seemed so relevant, so essential or so powerful.

The COVID Cello Project

Probably the most iconic musical image of the lockdown years was the remotely recorded digital collaboration video. Orchestras, choir and groups of all kinds that were no longer able to perform in person made the best of individual isolation to try to give some sense of community. A technique pioneered by Eric Whitacre with the Virtual Choir ten years previously suddenly became the default approach during the pandemic. Above, for example, is The COVID Cello Project, where cellists from around the world collaborated to produce a moving performance.

Orchestra of the Swan

After a while such collaboration videos went from inspiring to almost depressing in their over-familiarity. 8notes's own composer/founder David Bruce took a wittier approach for his for his new orchestral commission 'Swanning Around', asking members of the Orchestra of the Swan to film themselves performing their parts, while simultaneously acting out various typical 'lockdown' traditions, like exercising or baking bread. It makes for one of the sillier premieres in music history.

Opera Singing in Paris

In Paris, a young opera singer named Stéphane Sénéchal serenaded his neighbors from his window, enchanting the audience with his powerful voice and providing a source of inspiration and hope.

Yarden's Rooftop Sax Performance

In Tel Aviv, Yarden Klayman performed a live saxophone concert from her rooftop, sharing her music with the community and giving neighbors a reason to dance and celebrate despite the challenging circumstances.

Doctor Elvis Francois - The Singing Surgeon

Not only professional musicians but also everyday heroes found ways to share their talents. Doctor Elvis Francois, an orthopedic surgeon from the Mayo Clinic, became known as the "singing surgeon" after his video singing "Imagine" went viral. His performances and message of hope spread positivity during these difficult times.

One Day More - A Family Rendition

The Marsh family's witty-remake of "One Day More" from Les Miserables captured the full melodrama of the pandemic, and lightened the atmosphere with its good humour

Neil Diamond's COVID Parody of Sweet Caroline

Finally, even legendary musicians like Neil Diamond found ways to engage with fans and lighten the mood. He rewrote the lyrics to his classic hit "Sweet Caroline," changing 'holding hands' to 'washing hands' and a covid-wary. "Don't touch me, I won't touch you". During the COVID-19 lockdowns good times did indeed never seem so good.

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