I walk through the carefully sculpted grounds of Carrick House in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. I am greeted by two angels with the serious, reassuring smile of guardians of some sacred precinct like Delphi or Damanhur. One of them guides me through gaps in the hedges through enclosed gardens, explaining to me the minimum of things I need to know about the experience I am about to have. Past the last hedge I am instructed to sit down on a chair under a great fig tree, a couple of metres from a guitarist who is facing me. It is Slava Grigoryan.
One to One Concerts was inspired by the performance artist Marina Abramović. She gave a performance in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in which she sat all day, every day for three months, on a chair facing an empty chair, on which anyone could sit who felt moved to do so. The experience of people who sat opposite Abramović – and they could sit as long as they liked – is vividly portrayed in the beautiful novel by Heather Rose, The Museum of Modern Love.
These concerts were begun as a way for musicians to connect with listeners in the time of Covid, when only 2 people were allowed in a room at one time. Conceived in Germany last year, its founders created these concerts with the help of volunteers, and the money raised was used to support freelance musicians who as a class are all suffering terribly. Flautist Sally Walker gave this idea its Australian iteration, likewise to help musicians who have fallen through the gaps of the government’s otherwise generous Jobkeeper support during Covid.
In Adelaide Walker coordinated and curated the concerts, with the help of 11 other musicians playing various different instruments in several different venues of natural beauty. These concerts last just ten minutes, with the listener, the performer, and no-one else. I am not going to describe the experience I had here, partly because part of the power of the concerts was their unexpectedness, their mystery, and partly because the experience is so far removed from ordinary concerts that I would probably not be believed anyway. But I do know that the experience of many of those who sat opposite a musician who played for them was transformative.
The concert that Grigoryan played for me revealed to me what I know but too often forget – the magical nature of the core of musical experience. It is almost shamanic in its power. I encourage anyone who wants to reconnect with the core experience of music to go to one, anywhere they get the chance.
2021 Adelaide Festival
Conceived by Sally Walker
Venue: Various – see the Festival website for details
Dates: 4 – 12 March 2021