At this time of year, I would normally have been writing to you to welcome you to the Sixteenth Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts, but that was not to be, given the exceptional and unprecedented situation humanity now faces.
In this time of great uncertainty and anxiety we are all in ‘lockdown’, isolating in our respective bunkers, attempting to ward off this ‘Gomorrah’ and such concerts, church services, meetings, medical consultations, school lessons and social gatherings as are happening are all ‘virtual’. It is a real tragedy that, for the first time in its four century of history, as with all places of worship, our beautiful ancient church of St Mary the Virgin lies empty and barred and bolted.
Our festival, like so many others, has had to be postponed, and for now all our concert venues are temporarily closed and gathering dust; orchestras and choirs cannot meet and livelihoods of most of the profession are hanging by a thread. The Book of Daniel comes to mind: the trumpeters and pipers are silent, and the harpers have ceased to harp.
At this point, it is impossible point to say when this will change and how the social distancing measures can possibly be relaxed so that concerts can again take place. All we can do is look to 2021 and our 16th festival, which will be all the more welcome, given its absence this year. Meanwhile, it is more important than ever that we continue to look to the future with positivity and to look out for each other, continuing to put each other first.
My dear friend Stephen Hough, writing recently, said: “If we can take one lungful of air and then another, we are alive. Existence, as the blood pumping in our hearts and the air drawn in and out of our lungs is the body’s prayer; even when we forget or lack the energy to lift up our hearts. Just to be alive is a live stream into which we can always dip. The other Sunday, our dear Sovereign Lady reminded us that: Better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
I so look forward to seeing you at next year’s festival when the blockade is lifted; meanwhile, my every best wish to each and every one of you – keep well, stay safe, and may God bless you all and those whom you love until we all indeed meet again.
Ian Tracey DL
Professor, Fellow & Organist, Liverpool John Moores University
Chorusmaster to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society
Organist Titulaire, Liverpool Cathedral
Organist to the City of Liverpool