The COVID-19 situation has changed since this article was published in the April issue of Limelight. Please read a note from the publishers of Limelight for the latest info.

Well, what a start to the year! I’m writing this in the middle of March but already we’ve had bushfires of unprecedented severity, weeks of hazardous air quality, some very welcome rain – though floods and storms too – and the coronavirus, now declared a pandemic by the WHO.

Public performances have been cancelled in Italy, while many international opera houses have shut their doors. At the moment, live theatre, opera and classical concerts are going ahead in Australia, though we have just received news that Tasmania’s Dark Mofo festival, scheduled for June, has been cancelled. Meanwhile, composer Brett Dean is in hospital in Adelaide having been diagnosed with the virus after returning from Taiwan. I’m not sure what the situation will be by the time you read this, but with any luck the spread of the disease will be slowing, as it has done in China.

How lucky we are to have music and the arts! Even if we had to self-isolate, we can take consolation and joy from listening to music. One of the things that emerges strongly in this issue is the ability of music to unite us, uplift us, delight us, move us, and even heal us. Greta Bradman has written a fascinating article about the ways music can support individual wellbeing, both physical and mental.

For superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who is featured in this month’s cover story, music is a way of bringing people together, connecting cultures and tapping into humanity. Angus McPherson, who interviewed Ma at a special event in China, also writes about the miraculous survival of the Four Winds festival site in Bermagui, saved from rapidly approaching bushfires when the winds suddenly changed direction. Four Winds has commissioned a new choral work for the local community (many of whom have been traumatised by the fires) to perform. Written by Gordon Hamilton, it is billed as a “gift to the South Coast”.

We have a story about the ballet music that makes choreographers want to dance, and another about Sydney Dance Company and the Australian String Quartet joining forces to co-commission a new score for Rafael Bonachela’s latest dance work Impermanence. Things are impermanent, life is impermanent, but music and the arts are lasting joys.

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