Martin Pickard conducts the Orchestra of Opera North in socially-distanced Brahms

In July 2020, Dr Pickard conducted some of the first professional orchestra sessions since the start of the pandemic.

As lockdown restrictions began to ease in July, the Orchestra of Opera North was one of the country’s first professional orchestras to reunite and explore socially-distanced performance. Conducted by Dr Martin Pickard (Visiting Lecturer), the orchestra spent three days rehearsing symphonic repertoire in Leeds Town hall. The players were placed in accordance with Government guidelines: string players sat two metres apart while wind and brass players were separated by three metres in all directions. A perspex wall divided wind and brass from strings.

Initial sessions were devoted to strings alone (Tchaikovsky’s Serenade For Strings), wind (Gounod’s Petite Symphonie) and brass (Hindemith’s Konzertmusik). The full orchestra then came together to play Brahms’ Second Symphony.

A television team from BBC Look North reported from the sessions and interviewed Martin about the challenges facing a socially-distanced symphony orchestra.