On Friday 18 September, City of London Sinfonia (CLS) will return to Southwark Cathedral with two socially distanced performances of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. These first indoor concerts since March 2020 have been designed in accordance with current safety guidelines around live public performances during the Covid-19 pandemic* but will retain the familiar signatures of the Orchestra’s seriously informal style.

Two hour-long concerts at 2pm and 7.15pm will feature Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s arrangement of the Goldberg Variations for string trio, performed by Alexandra Wood (Leader), Ruth Gibson (Sub-Principal Viola) and Joely Koos (Co-Principal Cello). With capacity limited to 140 places per performance, audiences will be able to experience the concerts in flexible and socially distanced seating configurations positioned in the nave or in-promenade taking in the breathtaking architecture and distinct acoustics throughout the cathedral. A short mindfulness introduction led by Ruth Gibson will be open to audience members who would like to take a moment of calm reflection before the performance begins.

In order to reach the widest possible audience, and continuing CLS’s live+digital hybrid offer, the concert will also be recorded by Apple and Biscuit Recordings and broadcast on the Orchestra’s YouTube and Facebook channels later this month.

Alexandra Wood, City of London Sinfonia’s Creative Director & Orchestra Leader, said: It is tremendously exciting to be returning to live music-making with CLS on 18 September. It has been a long and strange six months for performers and audiences alike – unable to experience that connection, the magic, the atmosphere, the special silences and then, of course, the applause. Whilst we have been able to make music at home and explore online possibilities, we have missed sharing our music with a live audience, as the audience really is the most important part of an occasion. We therefore want you to enjoy the whole experience in these concerts – the music, the building, the restorative breathing led by our wonderful Ruth – while feeling relaxed in a safe environment.”Matthew Swann, City of London Sinfonia’s Chief Executive, said: We are delighted to welcome audiences back to one of our favourite venues, for what we hope will be the first of many performances at Southwark Cathedral over the coming weeks and months. This first performance is our first step to establishing a new model of performance, combining the elements that attract so many new audiences to CLS, with a digital offering that means we can still reach those audiences in the UK and beyond who are not yet ready to attend in person, and who our musicians continued to reach through our online lockdown offering.”

Though indoor public performances have been on pause since March, CLS has continued making and sharing music online throughout the lockdown, reaching audiences of thousands. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 26 March to 23 July, Comfortable Classical at Home broadcast live, interactive concerts curated and performed by CLS musicians into the homes of audiences everywhere. These audiences included those most at risk of social isolation – people in care homes, hospitals, hospices and educational facilities – with whom CLS has a long-standing creative relationship. Now restrictions around live performance have eased, the first outdoor Comfortable Classical of the autumn season will take place on Tuesday 15 September in the Albany Garden for an invited audience. The performance will be live streamed on Facebook, joining a line-up of more than thirty Comfortable Classical concerts now available to watch on-demand. Mindful Music, a CLS initiative first launched in 2018, also moved online – to Facebook and YouTube – with uplifting bite-sized sessions uniting live classical music with mindful meditation. The pandemic also inspired the creation of a new in-conversation series, Lockdown Chats, hosted by City of London Sinfonia’s Creative Director and Orchestra Leader, Alexandra Wood. Available on Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, acast and Spotify, the series features a raft of CLS musicians and notable collaborators including the composer Brett Dean, recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey, and leading baritone and composer, Roderick Williams OBE.

Away from the screen CLS musicians have been performing outdoors since July with Opera Holland Park and as part of Lunchtime Classicals, a free pop-up concert series which will continue throughout September every Wednesday from 12-2pm in Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf, in association with Spitalfields Music. The upcoming programme includes CLS’s String Quartet (9 Sept), Wind Quintet (16 Sept), Wind Trio (23 Sept) and String Trio (30 Sept).

* in line with the latest government legislation that comes into effect from Monday 14 September 2020, the CLS performances on Friday 18 September in Southwark Cathedral, which is a Covid-secure venue, will be open to socially distanced audience members in groups of up to six. For further information on safety measures in place, please see: https://cityoflondonsinfonia.co.uk/files/41bc724242bdeb88a9b4c45ff5186abd.pdf