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20 January, 2021

Stile Antico and COVID-19

The arrival of COVID-19 early in 2020 quickly put paid to our usual activities. Our final concert before lockdown was in Lancaster on 5th March, and soon afterwards it became clear that the major tours we had planned to the US and Japan in April and May could not go ahead. As events unfolded, all our remaining engagements for 2020 were cancelled, and the situation remains uncertain for 2021, particularly as regards international touring; promoters are understandably reluctant to make commitments when we are all so much at the mercy of events.

Our response has been to throw our energies into online, filmed and recorded projects, beginning with our now-legendary ‘virtual choir’ performance of Tallis’ Spem in Alium, which marked 40 days of lockdown in the UK, and which was a viral hit on social media. The easing of stay-at-home measures allowed us to make a recording, and to give our first post-lockdown concert, live-streamed behind closed doors at the York Early Music festival. We were delighted to be able to stay on in York to make a filmed version of a programme we had planned to tour this summer: The Journey of the Mayflower, which we released to mark exactly 400 years since the sailing of the Pilgrims from Plymouth. This film is now available to rent via the Vimeo website.

The autumn saw us taking part in the trailblazing Live from London festival: a showcase of some of the world’s finest vocal ensembles, which reached over 40,000 people all over the world via live-streaming, and creating a new series of filmed lecture-recitals, Sundays with Stile, released on Sunday evenings in October and November on Vimeo. We are thrilled that these online initiatives have been supported by our audiences, and that we have been able to reach people who would ordinarily not have been able to see us performing live. In December we gave live-streamed concerts from Wigmore Hall and the York Early Music Christmas Festival, and — fleetingly, and joyously — in-person concerts to small audiences in Oxford. The outlook for 2021 remains uncertain, but we are delighted to be able to give streamed concerts in the Live From London Spring Festival, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and for the Boston Early Music Festival.

We have been greatly heartened by the support we have received since the pandemic began, and particularly that so many new members have joined our Friends scheme. The assurance of regular support has emboldened us to pursue these ambitious digital projects and gives us great hope for the future. However, the need for support remains acute: much uncertainty remains about when normal musical life can resume, and in the meantime our income is greatly diminished. Please don’t hesitate to contact us, or to join the Friends scheme, if you’d like to help!

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