Violinist Jennifer Pike: ‘Limited freedom of movement is disastrous for the arts’

12 April 2021, 15:42 | Updated: 12 April 2021, 16:53

Violinist Jennifer Pike: “Limited freedom of movement is disastrous for the arts”
Violinist Jennifer Pike: “Limited freedom of movement is disastrous for the arts”. Picture: Jennifer Pike

By Rosie Pentreath

The star violinist speaks about the impact of 2020’s twin challenges of coronavirus and Brexit on the arts, and what musicians are looking forward to this summer.

Violinist Jennifer Pike has been reflecting on the past twelve months and their impact on classical music.

“I miss so much working with colleagues and a variety of different people from around the world,” Pike tells Classic FM. “It gives you such energy and stimulates your imagination, and artists really need that dialogue with different sorts of people.”

When lockdown came along for the first time in March 2020, to curb the spread of COVID-19, Pike like many musicians saw her diary just disappear, with event after event being cancelled or postponed.

Another challenge presented last year was the announcement of the UK’s trade deal with the European Union, and the fact it did not grant free movement for working musicians and freelancers in the arts.

“This limited freedom of movement is disastrous for the arts,” the 31-year-old violinist says. “But we’ll keep fighting for our voices to be heard.”

Not having access to visa-free travel is a double whammy on top of coronavirus, with musicians and freelancers in the arts seeing their work more restricted – or non-existent, in many cases – than ever.

Read more: Post-Brexit touring ‘prohibitively expensive’ for musicians if government fails to act, says Lords report >

Violinist Jennifer Pike performs Miklós Rózsa Variations at Wigmore Hall with Martin Roscoe

There is hope though. “With this exciting development of online collaboration, the world is very connected,” Pike says. “One of the good things about technology is that connection, and I’m sure we’ll find ways of keeping that alive.”

We discuss musicians’ tireless work keeping beautiful events live through online avenues.

“Now there’s much more hope on the horizon,” Pike enthuses. “For a few months in 2020 there was this no man’s land feeling, but then I felt people really trying to break the silence, and streaming and video performances emerged.”

And now, well into 2021, we’re able to look forward to a slow return to events with limited audiences, and even some summer festivals.

Pike takes the opportunity to point out how resourceful organisers have been in navigating the pandemic. “I have got a huge admiration for the promoters and organisers of festivals because they’ve had to be on hold.

“They’ve had no choice but to be on tenterhooks and just to make plans and hope they go ahead. There’s nothing they really can do apart from hold on, which a lot have been doing – and fighting for the support, which has been really vital.”

All musicians and people working in the arts have simply had to be resourceful.

“Now it’s looking exciting with Buxton International Festival going ahead where I’m Artist in Residence, and some other fun things on the horizon,” Pike tells us. She has a performance of The Lark Ascending coming up with Royal Northern Sinfonia next month too.

Read more: ‘It’s genius’ – classical music stars on why we love The Lark Ascending so much >

A beautiful moment from The Lark Ascending, performed by Jennifer Pike

“What we’ve all gone through is this renewed sense that music is a big healer and it’s there to help people in many difficult circumstances,” Pike reflects. “We have realised what’s important and what we need.”

“For me, the people drawing on music for solace is hopeful. Realising this seems to be a change of perspective – and it’s for musicians as well. We’ve always known we love what we do, but we’re really going to appreciate every concert even more I think.”

She adds: “Music is vital and it enriches people’s lives. The power of music can’t be underestimated. That gives me hope – very much so.”

Pike praises Wigmore Hall’s online concerts which she has been involved with, describing them as “good for the soul”.

“Wigmore’s work supporting hundreds of musicians with their series has been amazing too,” she says (see top video).

Read more: How to watch Wigmore Hall’s 2021 concert streams: from Isata Kanneh-Mason to Steven Isserlis >

“What we’ve all gone through is this renewed sense that music is a big healer” Jennifer Pike reflects on the past year.
“What we’ve all gone through is this renewed sense that music is a big healer” Jennifer Pike reflects on the past year. Picture: PA

What’s it like performing without an audience? “I really miss the sound of applause!” Pike, who has been on stage full time from a very young age, says.

“It’s a different challenge. I’m so used to the audience giving energy,” she says. “The music and what happens on stage is really influenced by the audience a lot of the time.”

Pike adds: “It feels really quiet, and I just the other day thought that anything would be better than silence: running water is a lot like an audience [clapping]. And even the sound of chopping vegetables would be welcome; booing or hissing... anything would be fine!”

We’re pretty sure that it would never be the latter.

Jennifer Pike is Artist in Residence at Buxton International Festival 2021, and performs there in July. Visit buxtonfestival.co.uk to find out more.