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Musician Christopher Duigan on adapting to change

Finding calm in Covid-19 chaos

Concert pianist Christopher Duigan is adapting to the restrictions enforced by Covid-19 and lockdown. Pictures: Supplied

One of SA’s most accomplished concert pianists, Christopher Duigan, in adjusting to Covid-lockdown fallout, has performed two live-streamed free concerts every week throughout the national shutdown.

So far, the Midlands-based musician has clocked up an astonishing 70 concerts during this time.


Duigan, and his Music Revival initiative, are synonymous with accessible live classical music concerts performed throughout South Africa, with home-town Pietermaritzburg as its fulcrum. For the past 30-odd years, Duigan has completed on average 100 performances a year – solo, with associates and with musical ensembles.

Together with virtually the entire global arts community, his ability to perform ground to a halt when live performance opportunities ceased, and gatherings were prohibited as lockdown was declared.

A Music Revival concert, pre-Covid days. Picture: Music Revival website.

So as not to lose momentum, Duigan opted to explore live music concerts streamed from his beautiful Pietermaritzburg home. The sessions have become more technologically sophisticated and more creatively interesting with the passing of the months, and Duigan, and his fans around the country, have become comfortable with the twice-weekly musical offerings.

“This started off as a temporary project, an interim measure to allow me to perform over hard lockdown, but it is becoming a permanent and important part of my output, and I intend to continue with this, in addition to live concerts which are slowly beginning to open up,” he says.

“My live concerts have appealed particularly to dedicated music lovers, but interestingly the online concerts are also providing a service akin to informal music therapy – an hour of company and calm amid all the uncertainty. It is surprising how many of the comments are appreciative of this. It’s not only about the music necessarily, but also what the music represents. The predictability and structure of the music is soothing and reassuring.

“I am inspired by Myra Hess who arranged 20 000 regular lunch-time concerts over six-and-a-half years during World War 2 – performing amid the bombing. She personified the war motto of Keep Calm and Carry On. Her commitment and bravery were astonishing.

“And of course, the concerts can be watched from anywhere in the world, so I am not bound by geography, which means friends of friends are beginning to join us from all over the place. Viewers can comment and give feedback on FB, so I can respond and interact after the concert which personalises the experience.”

Christopher Duigan was forced by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown to rethink his entire approach to performance. Duigan is one of the hardest-working and most accomplished classical musicians in the country.

Now read: How’re you surviving life under lockdown?

Duigan plays carefully structured repertoires of familiar music, interspersed with some original and improv pieces. The tone is informal and cosy – music interspersed by conversation, with Chris talking about the pieces being performed… and occasionally apologising for the intrusion of his dachshunds who wonder “on stage”!

Duigan’s work as an entrepreneurial musician over the years has attracted international attention for his innovative and ground-breaking approach and his activities have been said to be truly representative of a 21st century classical musician.

Festive events: It’s happening in the Midlands

The challenge is, of course, earning an income through the online medium. Duigan is clear that he wants to continue to offer the concerts for free – and invites audiences to make a donation if they are able, but the financial implications of his concert series is difficult, especially as there are costs involved in creating the concerts.

“I hope to find a way to make the numbers work as I intend to continue. In fact, if feels as though I am just getting started!”

• Catch Christopher Duigan Live in Concert on Saturdays and in Piano Hour on Wednesdays at 6pm. South African audiences receive better feed at his channel on YouTube, but concerts can also be accessed through the Music Revival website and Facebook at Christopher Duigan-pianist.

YouTube, for live streamed and archived sessions.
Christopher Duigan-pianist Facebook


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