Standing With Sydney by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall
When last year’s lockdowns forced the cancellation of concerts and events, Chris Howlett (cellist and founder of Australia’s largest exporter of classical music to China) and Adele Schonhardt (then-media and public affairs manager at Musica Viva Australia and vice-chair of the board at 3MBS Fine Music radio station) devised the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH), a social enterprise that hosts live-streamed concerts with performances by some of Australia’s most accomplished musicians, filmed using quality technology for audiences watching at home.
The aim is simple: to provide a paid means for soloists and small ensembles to continue to perform, and give live-music-starved audiences an evening of quality entertainment.
During the first concert on March 27, 2021, the artists made $18,000; 14 months later and $1.5 million has been reinvested among a diverse group of 1000 artists and 520 different technicians, with more than 700,000 tickets sold.
With the same thing happening in Sydney all over again, artists are once more watching their livelihoods almost magically disappear. And again, Howlett has been driven to action and within four days organised Standing With Sydney, a series of concerts filmed in Sydney to support local musicians and entertainers. The first two concerts generated $17,200 for the arts community, and there are more to follow.
Notably, this series marks a shift away from classical, world music and jazz into cabaret and entertainment. A previous line-up included Ensemble Offspring (performing works for flower pots and waterphone, among other things) and Fika (an ensemble featuring baroque instruments with electric overtones); comedy-cabaret show Catherine & Friends, featuring Hamilton Australia’s leading man Jason Arrow; Helpmann Award-winning performer iOTA (Smoke and Mirrors, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Mad Max: Fury Road); Helpmann Award-winning mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Dark (whose dreams of performing with the Australian Ballet in Adelaide this week for its premiere of Anna Karenina were smashed by Covid); and multi-award-winning artist, cabaret performer and producer Catherine Alcorn.
Each show is performed and filmed live at Chatswood’s Concourse Theatre in a Covid-safe manner, with more shows to be announced. Ticket prices are capped at $24, with $20 going to the artists and $4 covering the handling fee and backstage technicians’ payment.