Concert halls may be closed, but around the country orchestral music has been a cultural lifeline in the home during isolation – lifting people’s spirits, helping with mental wellbeing and has proved to be conducive to home working and studying.

A new study by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) asked a nationally representative sample of 2,110 adults about their engagement with the orchestral genre during the period of home isolation.

Overall, 51% of adults said they had enjoyed listening to orchestral music at home during isolation – a huge surge on the 22% that said they enjoyed orchestral  music in spring 2018. Furthermore, the new RPO research suggests that younger people have been most likely to enjoy the genre during lockdown – the abundance of social media activity and online streamed concerts perhaps appealing more to younger music fans.

Percentage of people that have listened to orchestral music during home isolation (by age group)

18-25             55%

25-34             60%

35-44             51%

45-54             44%

55-64             43%

65+                 51%

At a time of great concern over the mental health impact of home isolation on families across the UK, the new research also suggests that orchestral music has done more than help people to pass the time. Overall, 65% of  those that listened to orchestral music during isolation cite tangible  and lasting positive impacts on their health and lifestyle – and of these:·      three in 10 people (35%) said that listening to orchestral music helped them to relax and maintain a sense of calmness and wellbeing during the endless days of lockdown;·      more generally, 18% said the genre had Inspired them and lifted their spirits during times of worry;·      with a nation working from home in kitchens, studies and spare bedrooms – 14% of respondents said orchestral music had proven to help their productivity and concentration with work and studies (14%);·      for some (10%), a renewed enjoyment of the genre had encouraged them to consider learning a musical instrument, something especially strong with under 25 age group (18%). The under 25 age group were also those most likely to say they had discovered the orchestral genre during home isolation (15%). 

Regionally, the findings also suggest that the appeal of orchestral music during home isolation has been broad-based across the UK. Whilst London leads the way, the gap between London and the regions appears to be closing.

Regions where people were most likely to have listened to orchestral music during home isolation

London                                 62%

West Midlands                     55%

South East                             55%

Humberside/Yorkshire      53%

Scotland                                49%

North West                            49%

South West                            48%

James Williams, Managing Director at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra said: “During these dark days of the pandemic, people all over the country have had to adapt to unprecedented uncertainty and risks and it has been vital for people to stay at home and help the NHS to save lives. Orchestral music has tangibly helped people to cope, to adapt and to maintain a relatively positive mindset during the long days of lockdown. Orchestral music – and the arts generally – has enriched lives at a crucial time and, based on this, we believe the arts have an important role to play as attention starts to turn to the lifting of restrictions and rebuilding society. The economics will drive the country’s growth, but the arts has a role to play to enrich hearts and minds, to give us hope and to power our belief that together we can all recover from this terrible pandemic.”

Vasily Petrenko, Music Director Designate at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra added: “Culture and the Arts bring meaning to our lives. Culture and the Arts make us the human beings we are and give structure and sense to the society we create; they provide us with real values and fulfil our mental and emotional existence. In the most difficult days of the history of humanity, alongside the most dramatic events, the most devastating wars and epidemics, the Arts, and perhaps especially music, enhanced the spirit. Music became a symbol of resilience, heroism and ultimately our belief in ourselves, from Josef Haydn’s ‘Mass in Time of War’ to Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony. Today at a time of unprecedented risk and anxiety, the orchestral genre has once again helped people and as musicians we are desperate to join in the battle to rebuild society, to help people improve their mental health, to fire their spirit and to give comfort during this most isolated and most lonely time in our modern history.”