Music

Street symphonies? How classical music is helping to tackle homelessness

'The Night Under The Stars' concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall and Streetwise Opera creator Matt Peacock's 'With One Voice' event in Manchester both point to how the arts can do their bit to help people on the streets

While seeking sponsorship for running marathons, giving up booze and growing a handlebar moustache are all perfectly valid ways of raising money for charity, some of us prefer a more leisurely (easier) approach. Such as attending the upcoming Night Under The Stars concert (November 6), held at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

As well as offering an enticing programme of music inspired by Nordic countries, the event will raise money for The Passage – a charity based in Westminster that provides services that aim to prevent and end homelessness. Since it launched in 2001, Night Under The Stars has raised over £1.6m for The Passage.

The ‘Northern Lights’ concert features Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, whose glorious recording of Philip Glass’s Etudes bookended by two versions of Opening from Glassworks (with the Siggi String Quartet) I played on repeat last year. Ólafsson takes a break from minimalism to play Grieg’s much-loved piano concerto with the Orion Orchestra, conducted by Toby Purser. The programme features other favourites from the Norwegian composer, including In the Hall of the Mountain King (the piece used in the Alton Towers adverts) and works by Finnish composer Sibelius. Streetwise Opera – a charity that stages productions with people who are or have been homeless – will also perform.

There is increasing evidence that engagement with the arts can contribute to long-lasting positive change in people’s lives

Let’s address the elephant in the room: within a homeless person’s immediate hierarchy of needs, music appears fairly low down the priority list. Shelter, food and medical attention are clearly paramount. But there is increasing evidence – not least the successful impact of Streetwise Opera’s projects – that engagement with the arts can contribute to long-lasting positive change in people’s lives.

Streetwise Opera creator Matt Peacock MBE has since established an offshoot international movement, With One Voice, that has been helping to inform policy and practice across the world. They host a special event in Manchester to explore – and celebrate – the role the arts can play in tackling homelessness. Fifty delegates will join together for a summit at The Whitworth (November 15-18), with half the places given free of charge to people who are or have been homeless. This will run concurrently alongside a week-long festival held in locations around Greater Manchester.

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