Virtual city orchestra set to bring joy to social media

Sunderland musicians are invited to take part in an international virtual orchestra, in an act of solidarity as the world battles COVID-19.

Instruments as far afield as Japan and Poland will burst into life at the same time as those in Sunderland, on Saturday, May 9 at 5pm BST, playing the tune of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy in an international demonstration of togetherness during the global Coronavirus pandemic. 

The virtual orchestra, which has been organised by Sunderland’s twinned city of Essen, will see people from Germany, France, Poland and Japan join the city’s musicians in playing the well-known classical arrangement, from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, to pay tribute to the world’s efforts to beat its common enemy, COVID-19. 

Sunderland has shared a longstanding partnership with Essen, having been twinned with the German city since 1949.  Activity between Sunderland and Essen remains a central part of both cities’ international work to this day, with a number of joint initiatives.  These include work between youth councils and participation in international youth conferences as well as Sunderland companies hosting Essen apprentices on work placements each year.  A partnership between Sunderland College and THG Busines School in Essen has seen visits by Essen  young people to Sunderland, to work with Business Studies students, with a more recent strand of activity focused around collaborating to share good practice on the low carbon agenda, with knowledge sharing from Essen which was named European Green Capital for 2017.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said this latest project was a symbol of unity in the face of the biggest challenges the world has faced since wartime.

He said: “Music is a great unifier.  As we all battle COVID-19, a disease that knows no boundaries or borders, our international friends and the relationships we share with them mean more than ever. 

“In taking part in this event, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Essen and countries around the world, sharing music that will bring a smile to the faces of people the world over during this difficult time.  It’s a fantastic symbol of solidarity and we’re pleased people across the city are taking part.”

Sunderland Symphony Orchestra, members of Sunderland Youth and Community Orchestra, school children and musicians from across the city have been invited to take part in the event, by posting a video of them playing Ode to Joy at 5pm on Saturday to social media, using the hashtag #EuropeansagainstCovid19 in their post.  They will be able to see others’ videos under the same hashtag, bringing together musical talent from around the world.  

As well as Essen’s renowned Philharmonic Orchestra, orchestras, bands, professionals, amateurs, and learners from Grenoble (France), Zabrze (Poland) and Koriyama (Japan) are all signed up.  

Cllr Miller added: “Whilst we are not able to cooperate with our partners and friends in Essen at the moment in the ways we normally would, we are delighted to have the opportunity to join together with them in solidarity at this time as we face this global challenge which continues to impact all corners of the world.”

Anyone who wants to take part is invited to play ‘Ode to Joy’ (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) at 5pm this Saturday, May 9 and post their clip to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #EuropeansagainstCovid19 and tag @SunderlandUK who will be sharing posts with their followers.