We asked Music Theatre Warwick what they've been up to during the pandemic...
Here's what Sophie had to tell us!
In a regular year Music Theatre Warwick would put on upwards of 8 productions, from an entire musical staged in just one weekend to our full-scale shows in the Arts Centre Studio and Theatre spaces. This year is obviously panning out slightly differently to how anyone expected, but we have still tried to make the most of it.
When we first went into lockdown back in March 2020, the first thing we did as a society was come up with ways to keep our members motivated and engaged during the turbulent times. We set weekly challenges on our Facebook page over the Easter break including singing, dancing, musical themed baking, costume replicating, practising instruments and learning other skills. Then, when it became clear that we weren't going to return to campus in term 3, we faced the difficult realisation that all of our regular events would have to be cancelled. At that point our priority became making the most of our finalists' last term with us, with online socials and events for us all to attend together. Our Social and Welfare Secretaries Charis Winter and Tia Tokatly, who at the time had just started in their roles, deserve huge amounts of credit for keeping morale boosted through it all.
The biggest success of that term was our virtual version of The Gilbert's, our annual awards night, where usually we would all gather to celebrate our members' achievements over the year and say goodbye to those graduating. Charis and Tia put hours into making an event that we could all attend over Zoom which had an official awards presentation, emails for the winners with their certificates and most poignantly a video of the leavers' fondest memories from their time with MTW, along with messages and goodbyes. They even sent out individual cards to the finalists. As graduates were unable to have their well-deserved celebration, it was important to us that they could experience at least some of the traditions that they had been looking forward to - it was never going to be the same, but hopefully it made it all a bit more special for them.
With the Edinburgh Fringe Festival being cancelled, we were presented with more challenges coming into this academic year. Our Improv Musical troupe perform at the Fringe every year to sold out audiences, and they generate most of our yearly funding. With this and further tightening of restrictions, in September we were forced to cancel yet more of our shows, but we remained positive. Our focus this time around has been to make the most of the situation for our new freshers. They have undoubtedly been the most affected by the current situation so we concentrated our efforts into getting them all involved as soon as possible. We inducted them into our MTW families, specifically organised into groups of 6 or less so in relaxed restrictions they could meet up and put names to faces beyond a computer screen. On top of this we moved our weekly Ensemble sessions online so all our members can still have a sing and a dance to punctuate their timetable, and when it was possible we restarted our football and netball teams - Offside Story and Anything Throws - which proved very popular, but they have been put on hold until restrictions loosen.
It has certainly been a tough year so far but thankfully our members new and old have faced it head on with buckets of enthusiasm, and we're optimistic that we will be able to more than make up for it as soon as possible.
We asked Piano Society what they've been up to during the pandemic...
Here's what Daanesh had to tell us!
Since March, all of our events have been on Microsoft Teams. This year Piano Society seems to have become somewhat more like a Piano Appreciation Society, since most of our members who join the calls don't have a keyboard in their university accommodation. We have therefore adapted our events accordingly. For example, in term 1, our secretary Rob Darby hosted a couple of theory classes for beginners as well as an improvisation workshop. I hosted an event on useful pieces for beginner/intermediate level pianists, and I also did a couple of composition workshops where I performed some of my own compositions. Despite some technical issues and the fact that a piano doesn't sound as impressive on Teams, it fortunately hasn't been a complete disaster! We haven't made any digital footage from this year, but we are intending to create a video of performances from various members, since a live concert is looking increasingly unlikely this year, so hopefully we should be able to send some out some exciting footage soon.
We asked Opera Warwick what they've been up to during the pandemic...
Here's what Elfi had to tell us!
Opera Warwaick is a student-led society that encompasses performing, singing and sharing any interest in any opera related things. We put on 2 shows a year in the Warwick Arts Centre where the production team, the orchestra and the performers are students and members of the society. We also host singing events, scavenger hunts and many more exciting community spirit-filled activities to unite anyone who feels like they want to become involved.
Opera Warwick has been working on doing a virtual fun show (to be released next term hopefully); recorded music for our annual Loxley concert, as well as recording another piece for a charity for Warwick RAG week
We asked the University of Warwick Brass Society what they've been up to during the pandemic...
Here's what Joey Gold had to tell us!
When lockdown hit last March, BrassSoc had a busy year ahead planned with concerts with super star guest soloists, local bands, other university ensembles and contests across the country in the works.
Nevertheless, we got straight to work in the new term, starting with creating a virtual band video of Leigh Baker's arrangement of Lionel Richie's All Night Long.
Shortly afterwards, we released another, this time was our Symphonic Brass ensemble playing Peter Meechan's beautiful Song Of Hope with world-famous guest cornet soloist Tom Hutchinson who plays principal cornet with The Cory Band. This was particularly meaningful as just a few days before it was released, the trumpet player and Cancer Blows charity founder Ryan Anthony, for whom the piece was originally written, died following an eight year battle with cancer. We used the occasion to invite listeners to donate to his charity which uses money raised to fund research into cancer treatment.
Society activity wound down over the Summer break and we looked ahead to the new academic year. We developed contingency plans for varying levels of local restrictions for the new academic year. This meant that following the government's announcement of the rule of six restrictions, the society was ready to launch our brand new project: Bite-Size Brass. This is a collection of small brass ensembles that included brass quintets and sextets, a tuba ensemble, and a trumpet ensemble. This gave our members a brand new opportunity to play in small ensembles that most would never get in in other circumstances.
We ran a few recruitment events before term started and shortly after the start of term. These included our first ever virtual concert in which we showcased several of our society's previous and virtual performances.
Bite-Size Brass was then launched with rehearsals starting in week 2 of term 1 with music being played ranging from the Mandalorian Theme to Londonderry Air to Holt's Second Suite in F and which included some original arrangements from members of the ensembles.
Unfortunately, around halfway through the term, another national lockdown was announced which meant suspending Bite-Size Brass rehearsals for the rest of term. Again, we pushed on with developing new virtual projects, starting with a full band performance of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride and Frank Bernaerts' arrangement of the Boney M. Mega Mix!
Following lockdown, at the end of term 1, we pushed on with a scaled down version of our annual carolling, with two groups playing in Leamington and Coventry City Centre for two days, raising money for the society and recording videos which made a Christmas countdown which went out on our social media, ending with the release of the Sleigh Ride virtual band on Christmas Day.
Throughout the last year, we've worked closely with other music societies in finding and sharing rehearsal space, lobbying the university and SU about private practice space for students living in on-campus accommodation and creating risk assessments and a standard operating procedure for music rehearsals.
Brass Society rehearsing at the Westwood Bandstand
Looking forwards, we are aiming to release several more virtual projects over the course of this term and will be entering the Cory Band Online Brass Band Championships in March.
BrassSoc is a student run society for anyone who plays or would like to learn to play a brass or percussion instrument. Our society has several ensembles, including a full size brass band, an auditioned symphonic brass ensemble, beginners and intermediates ensembles, and small brass ensembles such as brass quintets and a tuba sextet.
We asked the University of Warwick Wind Orchestra what they've been up to during the pandemic...
Here's what Thomas Stanford had to tell us!
Since the first lockdown began in March, we have been very keen to keep playing as a group, even if we can't all meet in person! During April and May last year, members of the orchestra recorded themselves playing their parts to Holst's Fantasia on the Dargason which were edited together into a virtual orchestra. We created another of these videos at Christmas time, this time playing Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival, a medley of traditional Christmas tunes and carols for wind band.
During the Autumn term, we were able to organise opportunities to safely play in small groups. In total, we had 13 groups of 5-6 members of our orchestra meeting in combinations such as wind quintets, brass quintets, and saxophone ensembles. These rehearsals followed strict safety rules with extended social distancing, and provided a welcome opportunity to play in person with other people for the first time since March
Wind Orchestra Bandstand Rehearsal when restrictions allowed (Photo above)
To check out Wind Orchestra's lockdown videos please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/user/UniWarwickWindOrch
The University of Warwick Wind Orchestra (UWWO) is (in normal times at least!) a completely non-auditioned orchestra for the university’s woodwind, brass, and percussion players. We perform a wide range of music: from traditional wind band repertoire to musical theatre. Our concerts are held both on and off campus, and we annually compete in the National Concert Band Festival, where in 2019 we received the highest award available, and were invited to perform at the national finals!