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Theatres are still closed, so these musicians turned a London park into a concert hall

13 July 2020, 20:42 | Updated: 13 July 2020, 20:52

Dvořák in Greenwich Park
Dvořák in Greenwich Park. Picture: Ben Marshall

By Kyle Macdonald

If you were walking in London’s Greenwich Park on Friday, you might have heard a poignantly unfamiliar sound: an orchestra playing together.

We’re all missing live music. And we thought this was a wonderful story of a group of orchestral musicians, who wanted to make music together after being out of work for months.

Freelance musician Ben Marshall told Classic FM he was simply missing music. He wanted to get some his friends together to play in a way that was in keeping with the government’s most recent COVID-19 guidelines.

In June, Marshall originally assembled around a dozen freelance players. These musicians would usually be playing in London’s orchestras and in the pits of West End shows. In their first outdoor gatherings, they played Dvořák’s Serenade Op. 44 and Mozart’s Gran Partita.

“I then got a bit carried away and wondered if it would be possible to put on a full symphony,” Marshall said. “I sounded out a few of my favourite string playing friends and only had positive responses”.

He also called in another friend, conductor Steven Joyce, to lead the ensemble.

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The musicians met in a little dell in the capital’s historic park. Beautifully, the slopes of the dell almost perfectly mimic the contours of a concert hall.

There, without rehearsal or fanfare, they played Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, ‘From the New World’.

Even though they were just there to play music together and didn’t seek an audience, after a few moments, one appeared. Passersby gravitated to the music, standing by trees and sitting on the grass to listen.

These tweets perfectly capture what the music meant to those who were lucky enough to be there.

Marshall told us: “I would really like Friday’s event to be a symbol of solidarity with all professional musicians during this difficult time.

“Musicians still want to play, and from Friday’s performance we demonstrated that we can perform at a responsible distance, in an outdoor environment and to a high standard.”