A Lockdown Birthday Party

Updated: Mar 4

How does Core Music celebrate its 12th birthday when we can’t all gather together to make music?

That was the question facing us in late 2020, having negotiated the initial Covid-19 lockdown, a summer of relative freedom and an autumn with ever-tightening restrictions on everyday life. After all, we’d usually have a big birthday concert featuring groups and solo musicians who are connected to Core Music. It’s such a great way to celebrate the music those musicians have been making, but also a brilliant showcase for Core as a whole – a celebration putting us at the centre of local music-making.

Well, we did what pretty much everyone else did in 2020 and turned to online video. We sent out a request to all the musicians and groups connected to Core Music – groups who’d usually rehearse at Core, musicians who’ve been part of those groups and moved away, instrument tutors and more – asking them to submit a song on video to be part of our 12th birthday celebrations. It could be something they’d recorded specially for the occasion, or maybe something recorded earlier in the year that they’d like to share with the Core Music audience.

Personally, I was expecting about ten submissions, so – in one of our directors’ planning meetings in autumn – I volunteered to “top and tail” the videos, making sure everything looked nice and uniform before uploading them to our YouTube channel and arranging the 12th birthday video playlist. Of course, with our aim of making music accessible for all, we ended up with a total of 26 submitted videos, so I started to feel more than a little outfaced by the scale of the operation!

But when I sat down to start getting all the videos tidied up in iMovie, it became an absolute joy. Through the Covid pandemic, with lockdown and other restrictions on our lives and activities, it’s been too easy to forget all about the wonderful things that usually bring us those rays of metaphorical sunshine – for me, that’s seeing people making music and particularly enjoying making music together. With over twenty videos to edit, it was a feast for the soul.

As I went through the process, I found two things particularly moving. Firstly, the fact that even in a year through which we’ve mostly been closed for music-making, Core Music was still very much in people’s hearts when they thought about music and so they jumped at the chance to submit something for our birthday celebrations. Secondly, the video messages that people and groups sent us were so touching. Knowing what Core Music means to people is a huge part of what has kept us motivated through an incredibly tough year for the organisation; to hear those words from the mouths of our supporters just gave us even more impetus to make sure we’re still here when we emerge from the other side of the shadow of Covid.

We’d decided to drip-feed batches of videos on the hour throughout the day on Saturday 28 November, to create a sort of seven-hour concert, but with the ability to just catch up on it all in one go later if people preferred. As ever with something new, we weren’t sure how the event would be received, but the reaction on Facebook and on the YouTube comments was immediately hugely positive – again, a welcome reminder of how valued Core Music really is in the local community. We even had a livestreamed performance from Chris Kelly on Hexham bandstand, thanks to Pete Woods of HexhamTV and his specialist streaming equipment.

All in all, although it’s not how we’d have liked to celebrate our 12th birthday, we couldn’t have been happier with how it went and how the community responded. The videos racked up thousands of views within a few days and some people are still returning and watching our birthday videos six weeks later!

If you haven’t joined in the celebrations yet, follow this link to enjoy over an hour and a half of people making music: Core Music Birthday Bash

Owain Bennett

Director & volunteer, Core Music CIC

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