Support our musicians during the COVID-19 response

by La Serenissima
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Support our musicians during the COVID-19 response
Support our musicians during the COVID-19 response
Support our musicians during the COVID-19 response

Dear Artist Relief Funder,

Here we are, it's November and a good moment for us to take stock and reflect on the state of our working lives at this stage of the UK's recovery. The ARF continues to grow and we have been able to direct funding to a number of artists in need. We continue to be grateful for the support that you and other donors have given.

Since the summer, La Serenissima has delivered a variety of performances across the country, taking part in Longborough Festival Opera's The Return of Ulysses (under musical director Robert Howarth), playing concerts in Beverley, Cheltenham and Chipping Campden festivals and returning to venues in Oxford and Southampton. The group delighted clients of Kirker Holidays in Eastbourne - the first departure in a new partnership with the specialist travel provider. We recently made our debut with Vivaldi's Women at Saffron Hall - a fabulous venue which was filled with appreciative audience. We have also recorded the Vivaldi's Women programme at Cedars Hall, Wells in an extraordinary set of sessions produced remotely by Simon Fox-Gal from his new home in Greece. This project had been severely delayed by rising Covid-19 cases in the UK and travel restrictions which affected several key artists; having started to fundraise for this venture in 2017, it's extraordinary that it's only just 'in the can' now!

We were reminded at those sessions of the very great value of our musicians. Every single one of the instrumentalists booked for that project gave of their absolute best and Adrian came away feeling immensely proud of the group and everyone on board. Post-production work on the album will start soon. You can see some shots from the sessions here, taken by keyboard player Robin Bigwood. 

You may have seen that we have a new release out: Behind Closed Doors / Brescianello Opus 1 Vol. 1 is available on the Signum label. The album has attracted favourable attention from BBC Radio 3 Record Review and Scala Radio and was given a double 5 star review in BBC Music Magazine this month:

The performances by this accomplished ensemble are polished and invigorating. Chandler’s solo violin playing is articulate, warm toned and communicative, and he is supported throughout by his disciplined and responsive players, among whom the continuo group excels…In summary, a rewarding issue.” – BBC Music Magazine

If you haven't listened to the album yet, we hope you will enjoy discovering a composer who deserves to get out a bit more!

Whilst the diary has felt pretty jam-packed over recent weeks with Adrian juggling a hugely demanding performing schedule and a mountain of logistical operations, with limited support from me (I'm just emerging from a period of so-called Maternity Leave) we are conscious that everything that is happening at the moment has merely been postponed - ie. it should have happened last year. In fact we are facing over a year of arrested development. There are only small signs of new ventures on the horizon and we know it will take huge effort to get back to the level of concert performances that we had prior to the pandemic. It is for this reason that we have been glad to keep the ARF alive and it is also for this reason that we aim to step up recording activity where possible in the future.

Words from one recipient of a major gift from the Artist Relief Fund:

The gift from the ARF was a lifeline to me at an incredibly difficult time and I am so grateful to all who enabled it. Apart from the critical financial help it gave me it was also a hugely precious acknowledgement of the value of our work, a ray of hope amidst the devastation which Covid has brought on our profession.

Whilst musicians continue to face uncertainty about future work, there will come a time when we will close the Artist Relief Fund campaign. This is because at present, La Serenissima can best support artists through work creation - ie. planning and delivering recording projects, making digital outreach and driving resources to off-set performances that are under-funded. When we eventually end this campaign, we hope that you will consider supporting the organisation directly so that we can continue to nurture our team of talented musicians. Thank you for your generosity. 

With our gratitude 

Camilla & Adrian 

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Unwinding over a coffee, June recording sessions
Unwinding over a coffee, June recording sessions

Dear Artist Relief Funder,

This is first and foremost a reminder that La Serenissima remains massively grateful to you, our generous crowd, for supporting the Artist Relief Fund. As life begins to reopen, a huge level of uncertainty continues to surround our profession and all who rely on live events for their livelihood. It has been terrific to be able to offer meaningful grants to artists in need, as well as reassurance to all our musicians that the fund continues to grow and will be available in the future to anyone in need of extraordinary support. Thank you for your part in supporting our wonderful team.

At La Serenissima basecamp, Adrian continues to power ahead with his editing work providing endless possibilities for future programming. This work has uncovered fabulous music by Ariosti, Brescianello and Zavateri (amongst others) – all composers that are little-known to audiences. This evening the group played some of this music to a packed (if socially-distanced) Cheltenham Town Hall as part of the Cheltenham Festival. The group was buzzing and there was a wonderful atmosphere as everyone enjoyed the thrill of collective music-making – both onstage and off. We hope these live experiences will continue to go ahead and that opportunities to perform will open up over the coming months and years. 

We were immensely fortunate to receive funding in Round 2 of the Culture Recovery Fund, which funded basic operations during April-June 2021 and contributed to the cost of our June recording patch where work was created for 17 musicians and 3 freelance engineers/producers. During these sessions content was created for a new album (with a football-themed title, watch this space…), our first foray into podcasting and two short films to develop our digital outreach. This project was also funded with support from Continuo Foundation and we are thrilled to be amongst the first recipients of funding from this new trust. You can see some pictures of the sessions, seen through the eyes of one of our multi-talented violinists Agata Daraskaite.

We continue to fundraise through our Serene Recovery Fund to support the organisation in the next phase of this post-Covid world, where live events remain limited and our sector attempts to recover, in the hope of continuing to support and nurture our talented team.

Thank you for your ongoing support. We hope to see you at a live concert one day very soon!

 

Warming up
Warming up
Tuning
Tuning
A happy team at work
A happy team at work
Over the Artistic Director's shoulder
Over the Artistic Director's shoulder

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Making Settecento - the last sessions before Covid
Making Settecento - the last sessions before Covid

Dear Supporter,

This is a short update on La Serenissima's 'roadmap' for 2021 and a reminder that your generosity has helped build confidence for our players during this barren time. Firstly, please accept our thanks for your support to the campaign - we have raised well over half of our target and thanks to continued donations, the fund continues to grow.

We have made a small number of modest grants to musicians, as well as one major grant to an artist who slipped through the Government support framework. These gifts have enabled players to plug the gaps in their financial lives at a time when it's been almost impossible to work in the industry they have spent years training for. Thank you for enabling us to help these valued artists. As we have explained before, as the SEISS scheme is withdrawn later in the year, we predict that the need for additional grant-making will increase as it's likely our return to the concert platform will limp into life gradually - of course, we HOPE this wont be the case!

Having prepared for a new recording to take place in February (Vivaldi's Women) and excitement that we'd get to perform the programme in Saffron Hall in the same month, the UK lockdown ended all hopes. We were unable to organise the work without local accommodation near the recording venue in Wells, and some key artists were unable to travel to the UK to make the album, thanks to restrictions on entering the country and quarantine regulations. This was a large chunk of work for a large group of musicians that had to be shelved at short notice - now postponed until the Autumn when we hope quarantine rules will have eased and the country will be more 'open' for business. 

We have also, sadly, seen the postponement to our April appearances for cultural tours operator Kirker Holidays due to the continuation of restrictions on gatherings. We are happy to say that new dates are being planned with the company, but of course we've been raring to get back to work and this looked so promising!

It remains to be seen whether La Serenissima will be able to go ahead with a performance at Beverley Festival in May. We await news from the promoter... 

On the positive front, we do have a LIVE STREAM set to go ahead as part of the WIGMORE HALL series on 31 March! Please watch and share the good news if you can! All info can be found on the links below. It's free to watch, but you do need to create an account on the Wigmore's site to view. The programme is really exciting - music by Ariosti, Telemann, Valentini and Vivaldi with rising star Jess Dandy (contralto). Adrian is working hard to prepare for this unexpected return to the stage at the end of the month.

We also have hope that a nunber of high profile concerts will go ahead from the summer, including work for Cheltenham Festival and Chipping Campden Festival, and also a collaboration (our first) with Longborough Festival Opera in a run of shows of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses. Needless to say, other events remain under question as promoters continue to grapple with the uncertainty of the Covid situation and the pressure on finances caused by social distancing. 

Adrian and I continue to feel that recording remains the only way that we can create work for our team AND remain connected to audiences whilst 2021 plays out. We have begun the process of trying to raise funding for projects later in the year, including a patch of work in June, August and October. We have applied to Round 2 of the Cultural Recovery Fund in the hope that we wont be overlooked a second time. We have also applied to a new fund, the Continuo Foundation, to enable us to make up the balance for the first recording / filming / podcasting project we hope to run (in June). This is a new trust set up during the pandemic to help support work creation for freelance groups and artists; their mission has never been more needed. We await news of these applications and hope to have good news for our band soon. We also continue to appeal for donations to our Serene Recovery Fund to enable La Serenissima to keep working in 2021 and beyond. The appeal got off to a promising start in January with a number of major gifts and pledges helping us get on track to raise a daunting target of £100,000.

You may have seen that new album Settecento was released on 12 February, entering the UK Specialist Classical Chart at Number 7 and being streamed more than half a million times in the first two weeks - an amazing achievement for an album of obscure chamber works. The recording was highlighted on BBC Radio 3's Record Review and Essential Classics and selected as John Brunning's Drive Discovery on Classic FM in its first week of release too.

Adrian is midway through the editing of our recording of Brescianello's Opus 1 Vol. 1 - due for release in the autumn on Signum. This was the first patch of work we could create for artists following the UK's first lockdown and the musical results are really wonderful. We're very excited to share such uplifting and beautiful works with our followers so please WATCH THIS SPACE!

Thank you for engaging with the life of our ensemble and for demonstrating your solidarity through support to this campaign. We are all so grateful.

With our thanks

Camilla

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Our continuo team at work with 2m distancing
Our continuo team at work with 2m distancing

Dear Supporter,

The Covid-19 situation continues and the knock-on effect for the Arts and La Serenissima in particular continues to be felt. The group has now had all concerts cancelled or postponed up to the end of 2020. 

Some of you will have seen that La Serenissima was one of a number of organisations that were unsuccessful in their application to the Chancellor's Culture Recovery Fund. This means that we will not receive any grant to help continue running the organisation over the months of October-March 2021. The impact of this will be profound but Adrian and I are determined to keep La Serenissima going. 

The Artist Relief Fund is still growing. Thank you to everyone for keeping the campaign alive, especially our recurring donors. We have raised more than £10,000 online and offline for the ARF and it is a source of reassurance to our team to know the fund is there should they need it. We have made a small number of payments to players over the recent months, but in general our team are managing through the Government Self Employed Income Support Scheme. The situation is precarious though as SEISS is unlikely to outlive the period of damage to our industry, meaning the ARF will become more significant to players over the coming months.

Whilst we await news of a UK vaccine with eagerness, this is tinged with realism as we know that audience confidence may be damanged for many months, if not years to come. For La Serenissima, this is a serious obstacle because our business model depends on bookings from promoters in order to perform live in public. We are not yet sufficiently funded to give concerts without this income. 

On the positive front, we decided to launch a project in October to record the first disc of Brescianello's Opus 1. This is something that Adrian has longed to do for a while - the music is just so good. It was also important to us to create some work for our core of string players once restrictions were lifted enough for us to work behind closed doors. La Serenissima is massively grateful to the individuals who donated specifically to fund these sessions: it brought us back together again to play some fabulous music after more than 7 months without working together. 

The sessions took place in the Johnson Hall, Millfield School during October half term - just before the UK entered its second lockdown. We had a rigorous set of protocols in place to manage the risk of Covid-19 which included taking daily temperatures, sanitising everything (!) and observing 2m distance in our orchestral set-up. Face masks were worn when moving around the building or when not playing or eating. We organised accommodation for our players locally in bubbles and brought in locally-made food for the team to avoid the need for entering cafes and shops whilst on the project. We also had to handle all this without extra personnel present, so Adrian and I were responsible for all the logistics on site whilst also playing in the sessions. We were able to include two of our Emerging Artists in the week's recording sessions - for one of them it was their first ever experience of recording - which was a massive success. The week was a really happy one, with all the band pulling together to help with running things smoothly. Everyone said how positive it felt to be working again. We are extremely excited by the material gathered during the week - which also included some instrumental tracks for our next planned release Vivaldi's Women (you can see a picture of Adrian recording on our newly-commissioned Italian viola d'amore below). 

If you would be interested in donating to support any aspect of the Brescianello Opus 1 recordings, please write to camilla@laserenissima.co.uk - we have a small funding gap to bridge for the recent sessions and we are also keen to make the 2nd album during 2021. We increasingly feel that making recordings will be the only way to keep La Serenissima's music widely available whilst the Covid-19 situation lingers on. 

Do look out for our new website once it goes live - we're working on the changes to our homepage now. And please consider buying La Serenissima's CDs ahead of Christmas - they make very jolly presents. You can also raise free donations for us when you shop online using Amazon Smile and Give As You Live - it's a good time to try this if you're Christmas shopping. It all makes a difference to us - a little goes a long way with La Serenissima!

Thank you for your support in 2020. We are determined to keep La Serenissima's music alive in 2021.

With our gratitude,

Camilla

Adrian Chandler with the 'Crystal' viola d'amore
Adrian Chandler with the 'Crystal' viola d'amore
The General Manager serving cake in a break!
The General Manager serving cake in a break!
Bass player Peter McCarthy finding peace & quiet
Bass player Peter McCarthy finding peace & quiet
The viola bubble
The viola bubble

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LS performing to a sold-out Smith Square in 2019
LS performing to a sold-out Smith Square in 2019

Dear Supporter,

Thank you for your generosity in supporting La Serenissima's Artist Relief Fund. I am delighted to say that we have raised more than £10,000 to create the fund through the support of our GlobalGiving crowd and from other donors who have donated directly to La Serenissima. And thanks to monthly donors and others, the fund is still growing.

As you may remember, when we launched the campaign, we did not know the scale of the closures to public-facing activity and we also didn't know what the Government's response to the crisis would be for the self-employed. All our team are freelance and so we needed to prepare for the event of there being no support for the self-employed. Happily, the Chancellor's package has helped our team through the months of March-May and will do so (to a lesser extent) for the months of June-August 2020. This has meant that so far, no one has needed to apply for a hardship grant from the fund.

However, we anticipate that all of our remaining concerts in 2020 will be cancelled or postponed (although we haven't had confirmation of this yet) and the outlook for performing in large groups in public is bleak whilst social distancing is required. Consequently, we anticipate that many of our musicians will need some kind of grant from the Artist Relief Fund during the Autumn or early part of 2021 if they are to survive the impact of the pandemic. 

Consequently, we continue to invite support to the fund in the hope of it growing over the coming months. We have created a LS Players' Committee to inform decision-making around the Artist Relief Fund and to help us keep in touch with our wider group of musicians about how they are coping with the situation.

As one of the UK's performing arts organisations who are not a National Portfolio Organisation, we must await news from Arts Council England to discover how we may be able to benefit from the Chancellor's recently-announced Arts rescue package. This support will be crucial to enabling La Serenissima to weather the impact of Covid-19 beyond the Autumn. If you wish to make a donation directly to La Serenissima to help us keep going, please email camilla@laserenissima.co.uk as we would be hugely grateful for any additional help you can give. We are hoping to create new recording projects to provide work for our team and keep La Serenissima's music available to audiences whilst we can't play in public.

In the meantime, please keep an eye on our website which will be upgraded soon and consider signing up to receive our newsletter if you haven't already. Our new album Extra Time will be released on 31 July and features music by Albinoni, Brescianello, Matteis The Younger and Vivaldi. You can follow Adrian's daily editing challenge through our social media channels too.

Thank you for your support. Everyone at La Serenissima is very grateful.

With our best wishes,

Camilla & Adrian

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Organization Information

La Serenissima

Location: Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @laserenissimaUK
Project Leader:
Camilla Scarlett
Woodstock, United Kingdom
$22,600 raised of $23,724 goal
 
171 donations
$1,124 to go
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