Wigmore Hall stages first of 100 concerts with socially distanced live audience

Baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber perform songs by Schubert and Berg

A concert hall director appealed for donations as he launched the first of 100 events during the pandemic.

London’s Wigmore Hall reopened on Sunday, with a socially distanced audience for a concert which was also streamed online.

Its director, John Gilhooly, said the first week of classical music concerts – there will be 100 between now and Christmas – have sold out.

"We’re just doing this to put money back in artists’ pockets," Mr Gilhooly said.

"We could have sat around and done nothing, and that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. We’ve got to make the effort."

But he added that "obviously it makes no economic sense to have only 20% of your house full when you need 90%".

People attend a performance by Baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber

The "beauty is that anybody, anywhere with an internet connection, can watch online and they can donate… We’re relying on people watching all over the world to donate and that goes directly to the artists’ fees."

Gilhooly appealed to those watching: "Give something if you watch a concert and you enjoy it, even if it’s only a fiver…

"I think we can just about break even. But we need people, giving online.

"And that’s a real glimmer of hope because if this works we know we can keep going.

"This could be an 18-month crisis. It might be that we’re not back to proper concert life, with full halls, until September (next year)… that’s one of our worst-case scenarios.

“So this mixture of people watching live online or attending the hall will help us pay the artists."

Wigmore Hall is the first UK music venue to welcome back live audiences for a full autumn season of more than 100 concerts, including solo recitals, quartets and larger-scale ensembles from around the world.

– Details are at https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/news/john-gilhooly-confirms-new-autumn-series