The crowd was small but loud. As the Australian Chamber Orchestra walked onto the stage of City Recital Hall for their first live performance since March, applause turned into mask-muffled whoops and cheers, then into thunderous stamping of feet, without a note being played. But in the time of a global pandemic, the ordinary – humans gathering to listen to music, to play music, the talk and listen and enjoy – has become extraordinary. Meanwhile, the extraordinary – exacting performances from a crack team of elite virtuosi – feels instantly comforting, familiar… nearly normal.

Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Photograph © Daniel Boud

The occasion called for a few speeches. Artistic Director Richard Tognetti is much better at playing the violin than he is at stand-up, but his passing jabs at the plight of live performance, in comparison to, say, live sport, raised some hollow laughs. Meanwhile, Managing Director Richard Evans expressed his relief and gratitude to everyone, including Paul Fletcher, Minister for the Arts (among other things), and to the audience.

Enough of speeches. The...