Philharmonia Orchestra launches first YouTube socially-distanced live shows for July 2020

The Philharmonia Orchestra has launched The Philharmonia Sessions, a summer programme of three world-class, free digital concerts, broadcast on YouTube and created especially for an online audience. Renowned musicians and the Philharmonia Orchestra will work together to create bespoke concerts for people at home.

The three concerts will each be 50 minutes long and performed and recorded in accordance with social distancing rules and the first concert will be broadcast on Friday 17 July at 7pm. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason join the Orchestra to perform Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1, in a programme that also includes Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, both conducted by John Wilson. The concerts will join archive performances, instrument guides and watch parties already available on the Philharmonia Orchestra YouTube channel under the #StayHome #WithMe

Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE, one of the brightest young stars on the classical music scene, became a household name worldwide in May 2018 after performing at the wedding of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. He was the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition, received the Male Artist of the Year and the Critics’ Choice Awards at the Classic BRIT Awards, and in July 2018 became the first artist to receive the new BRIT Certified Breakthrough Award, having sold over 30,000 copies of his debut album in the UK and surpassing 100,000 album sales worldwide. In January 2020, he released his second album which reached No. 8 in the UK official album chart, making Sheku the youngest classical instrumentalist and the first cellist in history to reach the UK top 10. Sheku made his debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2018 and performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Orchestra (May 2019).

John Wilson is one of Britain’s leading and most versatile conductors, appearing every season with the Philharmonia Orchestra in a broad repertoire including one of his greatest passions, English music. Since forming the John Wilson Orchestra in 1994, dedicated to performing music from the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway, John Wilson has also been in demand at the highest level across the globe, working with some of the finest orchestras and opera houses. 

Performed with a chamber-size orchestra, the Philharmonia Sessions will be filmed several days in advance of their broadcast and will be presented alongside documentary material about the process of creating socially distanced performances in the unique current circumstances. The full programme will be announced in due course. Though performances are free, this work and the Orchestra’s ability to plan for the future is only made possible thanks to the support of Friends and donors. Audience donations will keep the Philharmonia playing and secure the future of the Orchestra.

Michael Fuller, Interim Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “We are delighted to be presenting the first Philharmonia performances since we last stood together on stage at our Southbank Centre home, on Sunday 15 March 2020. As has been the case for the entire performing arts sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought extraordinary artistic, financial and organisational challenges, but we have been determined to move as quickly as possible to getting the orchestra playing again, and to return to serving our audiences.

Having invested in a Digital programme of work for over a decade, the Philharmonia is in a good position to create this new format and continue our sector-leading work. The Philharmonia Sessions are free and for everyone, and will be supported by the generosity of our audiences, Friends and supporters. We want to offer this music to all during this unexpected and difficult time and we hope it brings some measure of comfort and healing. We are simply thrilled to be performing again.”

Experience more performances by the Philharmonia Orchestra on its YouTube channel.

Philharmonia Orchestra and Sheku Kanneh Mason from May 2019 / Image: Belinda Lawley

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