Ensemble Reza emerge confident from pandemic

Mid-Sussex based Ensemble Reza - regulars at the Festival of Chichester - are in a remarkably strong position.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 9:00 am
Ensemble Reza
Ensemble Reza

They can confidently say their year of lockdown and pandemic has been a thoroughly good one.

“We have had an exciting year,” says Ensemble Reza managing director Hannah Carter, “and we have got an exciting future.”

In fact, on Tuesday, March 16, they will notch up their 50th virtual Ensemble Reza Midday Music Concert – a weekly commitment which has been a key way the ensemble has navigated all the challenges of 2020 and into 2021.

“It has been an amazing year,” says Hannah. “For us, it has really shaken things up and we have done things in a completely different way. It has totally changed our way of working.

“Last March we were in a sink-or-swim position, but we had worked so hard for eight years that we were certainly not going to sink. I think everyone has it within their power. You have just got to find the way to survive, and if you really want to, you will.”

Key was the realisation that without their music there would be audience members who really would be on their own: “We realised it was really important to keep the music going, and that’s what our Midday Music series has been about every Tuesday (on the Ensemble Reza YouTube channel). We started it nearly a year ago.”

And is has worked precisely because Ensemble Reza has such strong roots in the community: “To begin with we were getting 120-150 people listening every week and the donations were pouring in. We said to people ‘We really don’t want to stop but we need your help’ and people responded. And then the power of the web was such that suddenly it became much more than a local series. It became a national series. We have had people listening from Scotland and from Devon and from France.”

It has proved a big part of survival: “But we have also been lucky that we have had Arts Council funding and funding from the post-code lottery and other funders.”

The contributions have meant that the Tuesday series was able to stay free: “It was really important to make it reach as wide an audience as possible and to not have any barriers to the music. It is about the social importance of music, people’s welfare, their ability to listen.

“And I think the series has opened doors to other things. That is what has been really interesting about it. It has been important to keep us in people’s minds, but from there we have developed other things.

“We have developed a music club which is basically like a book club. It was something we were interested in doing, and we have been doing it virtually and we have got people from across the country listening.”

Hannah is convinced certain changes will be permanent. She expects to retain the online element to the Tuesday concerts even when live audiences are able to attend again. The music club might continue in both live and digital formats.

“I am feeling confident. Everything is going to be quite different. We are not going to be able to have huge audiences in the immediate future. It will be a question of playing live with as many people as we can get in safely.

“But I am confident. We have created so many new partners, so many new contacts that we would just have never considered making before. It has been really good for us. We have been really lucky.”

Ensemble Reza is at the core a sextet (two violins, two violas and two cellos) but can include any combination of string players from soloist to sextet.

Individually members have performed worldwide with globally renowned orchestras and ensembles.

Its aim is to unlock the musician in us all, enriching, educating and inspiring audiences and performers, changing lives through music.