The Reopening of Abbey Road Studios by RPO Cellist Chantal Webster

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I awoke on Thursday with a palpable feeling of excitement – WORK! Finally, I could pack my cello into its case with a sense of purpose. Having been under total musical lockdown for 82 days, the last couple of concerts where we had performed to dwindling audiences scared about the imminent onslaught of COVID-19 seemed a lifetime ago.

Some of us had the huge privilege of being the first musicians to re-enter the hallowed doors of Abbey Road studios after their COVID lockdown. It felt so familiar to be back yet there were striking differences: the 2m queuing outside, the warning stickers and hand sanitisation stations everywhere, the masks and the empty corridors.

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Speaking to friends as I arrived, we all shared the same feelings of excitement and almost nervousness. Would three months of not performing have taken its toll on our fingers, despite our diligent practice? However, on entering Studio 1 the jitters all calmed, and we fell into a sense of normality despite the socially distanced chairs.

The headphones were placed on, the beautiful Melody Gardot arrangements flooded our ears and… click, click, PLAY. It felt wonderful to be back. Just to hear the luscious string sounds again was such a joy. What social distancing cannot contain is the eye-contact and body language that we as musicians rely on constantly in our daily lives. It made me realise what I’d missed most about lockdown – people. Real live people. Not over Zoom or on phone calls but people in the room. And though I have loved every second of having my family all together, it is the people to banter with, friends to catch up with in the flesh and colleagues to share a smile with across a (not so) crowded recording studio that I have missed.

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In these musically bleak times, it felt so GREAT to be normal again just for one day. So, fingers crossed Abbey Road will continue to open its doors and in time so will the Royal Albert Hall, the Southbank Centre and all the other theatres and concert halls around the country. Then we can reunite together as real people sharing a real live musical experience again. 


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