A GROUP OF MUSICIANS IN BERLIN JOIN TOGETHER TO PLAY MUSIC FROM THEIR WINDOWS!
Source: Marina Vaz, "O Estado de S. Paulo", 19/05/2020
English translation by G. Conte
Redaction: K. Dimopoulou
FOTO: GUILHERME CONTE
Every Sunday, artists from different nationalities play “Ode to Joy”, by L. Van Beethoven.
A Finnish pianist. An American singer. A Japanese double bass player. A flutist, a violist and two violinists from Germany. Besides being professional musicians, who play in different groups, they have in common the fact of living in the same set of buildings in the Charlottenburg district, in Berlin.
Due to the pandemic, they had to stay home and many of their concerts and performances had to be cancelled, so they decided to get together to play the “Ode to Joy”, by Ludwig Van Beethoven. Always on Sundays, the artists appear on their own windows and on their balconies for a concert: First, there are several solos and duos in the courtyard of the building, with varied repertoire. Then, it’s time to present Beethoven’s "Ode to joy", for whoever passes on the street. Sometimes, a cyclist slows down and stops to hear them. A woman, from the other side of the street, tries out some sounds, trying to accompany the soprano. And a neighbour- who is always a bit shy- opens up just a bit of her window to see them and listens to the music.
The idea of uniting the musicians came from the flutist Jochen Hoffmann, who works at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and lives on the third floor. The repertoire choice was opportune: the emblematic "Ode to Joy", part of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, had already being remembered in tributes to the health care workers in other windows and balconies of the country. “I always joked about having to do a project together. So, when Jochen invited me to do something, I instantly accepted”, says the German violist Julia Lindner, who played in orchestras like Komische Oper Berlin and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. “I feel very fulfilled, to see how much joy it brings to the neighbours and at the same time, also to me. This is also a form of personal healing in this sad, hard moment.”
The choice of "Ode to joy" brought, nevertheless, a challenge. It needed an arrangement that contemplated the instruments played by the neighbours. It was then that Julia and her husband, the Brazilian journalist Guilherme Comte, decided to invite the composer Leonardo Martinelli, who lives in São Paulo, to help. “The musicians combination was a bit uncommon”, observes Martinelli, who, at the end of March, was grieving the loss of two important references in the classical music scene, both victims of the Covid-19, conductors Naomi Munakata and Martinho Lutero Galati. “I said I would do the arrangement, as a way to process the grief of the loss of these two artists, and also honour their artistic cause. I completed it in one day only, and I was taken by very opposite feelings”, remembers the composer, who, in December last year, premiered the opera "O Peru de Natal" at Theatro São Pedro, a work based on the short story of the same name by Mário de Andrade. For Martinelli, more spontaneous and informal artistic presentations like these carry other meanings. “These are powerful actions, because they establish a very special kind of connection between artist and their public. It is not about a simple hobby, something to do over the weekends. It is an exercise of struggle and life for all the parts involved, where the musicians or the people listening to them are looking, not only for the music, but for a different sense of their existence, that we do not encounter in concerts that we used to go before the pandemic.”
In the first presentations in the building, one of the hard parts was the acoustic: it was not easy for the musicians to listen to each other. While for example, American soprano Sarah Fuhs sung on the ground floor, the musicians that accompanied her would be three or four floors above her. Besides that, the group does not use any kind of amplification – except when Finnish pianist Sami Väänänen, husband of Sarah, plays the piano, since the instrument is far away from the windows (in the middle of the living room). To enhance the connection between the musicians, Väänänen ended up assuming the role of the conductor, standing in the middle of the courtyard.
With all the social isolation going on, Sarah believes that people have even more will to remain connected with the others: “I believe that artists can certainly help to fulfill this need, now more than ever. One earns less money, but the emotional reward was probably never so intense and gratifying. Shakespeare already knew it, and now we are all experimenting it: the whole world is a stage, including our windowsills".
The neighbours' orchestra already has a name : "Homecastle Symphony Berlin" and just got their own YouTube channel.
Press the button below to visit the channel
"European Freelance Artists need their own National or European Insurance Category"
Michelangelo's "The creation of Adam" in Capella Sistina, Rome.
"Art, Europe's Cultural Heritage is a heavy load! Help us carry it."
The Coronavirus pandemic 2020 has exposed a very important issue: The issue of the lack of National Insurance Category for Freelance Artists.
Everyone agrees that, classical and many of the modern arts as we know them in our western world, are a "European Cultural Heritage" and therefore, European countries have been promoting Arts as a very important subject for studies, especially the last 5-6 decades. In older times, arts used to be more a kind of "closed professions": One had to learn it directly from the master, then assist them, then maybe succeed on their own. Nowadays, every year, thousands of people from all over the world (not only Europe) graduate from European Universities as "professional artists" and most of them will prefer to live and work in Europe. Today, it is not too much to say that, almost every family in Europe, counts at least one "artistic" member! But the majority of these professional artists will not work (only) as state employees. Many of them actually will never work as state employees and will remain "freelancers" for their whole life. What does that mean, when it comes to the practical matters of a human life, like insurance, or rent? It means that freelance artists nowadays need their very own National (or European) Insurance Category, that will serve their special professional needs.
Because after many years of difficult studies (classical musicians start studying around the age of 9, or even younger, ballet dancers even at the age of...4!) that cost a lot of money (art studies cost very much!) freelance artists will have to deal for ever, not only with the never ending competition, the huge anounts of stress and the fact that their work will be judged mostly subjectively, but also with low wages, lack of working places, lack of working stability, huge delays on payments, a working environment that is often aggressive (sexually or otherwise) and is full of non written (often very wrong) rules and "traditions" that create a very hostile working environment.
Germany has a special Social Insurance Category for Freelance Artists (and Journalists) that is called Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) and it's created exactly for all the reasons mentioned above. It provides the artists medical care and rent, the rent according to the amount of money and time the artist has invested to KSK.
"The Artists' Social Fund (KSK) is a division of the Federal and Railway Accident Insurance. With the implementation of the Artists' Social Insurance Act (KSVG) it ensures that self-employed artists and publicists enjoy similar protection in statutory social insurance as employees. It is not a service provider itself, but coordinates the payment of contributions for its members to health insurance of their choice and to statutory pension and long-term care insurance. The entire statutory range of services is available to independent artists and publicists. You only have to pay half of the contributions due out of your own pocket, the KSK tops up the amounts from a federal grant (20%) and social security contributions from companies (30%) that use art and journalism. The monthly contribution an artist / publicist pays to the KSK depends on the amount of his working income. If this is not above the de minimum limit of 3,900.00 euros per year, the KSK cannot be used as a rule (exception: young professionals)."
You can read more here: www.kuenstlersozialkasse.de
We want a similar system to happen to Greece, and of course to all European countries. Greece has no plan for the freelance artists and their survival. It never had. It actually has no plan at all around arts and artists. In Greece, freelance artists live since decades as "third class citizens", often reaching the end of their lives poor and miserable, with no rent. The government often accuses artists of "working illegally" when, at the same time, it doesn't help them work legally. It is impossible for a Greek artist to maintain any Social Security and its expenses, when living in a country that doesn't create jobs for all of the artists, and doesn't even create a positive environment for freelances to support themselves. We know that this doesn't happen only in Greece.
Right now, there are thousands freelance artists out there, of all ages, who are left without a job, without a future, without hope, and more will follow, and they all need your support. We are already 3 months without work and more months will follow. The little money that some governments give to some of us (not the majority!) as a "help", is welcome, but it doesn't really resolve anything.
SIGN NOW! We ask from the European Union to immediately stand behind its artists and help them survive, live and work as they are worth, by making all European governments follow the example of Germany and their system (KSK).
Art, Europe's Cultural Heritage is a heavy load! Help us carry it. Thank you.