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Commonwealth countries end the year with ‘uplifting’ and ‘powerful’ musical collaboration

22 December 2020

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has described a never-before-attempted musical feat as “uplifting and a powerful testament to the Commonwealth’s resilience”.

The recently released ‘Simple Gifts’ soundtrack under the United Commonwealth COVID Music Project, features a collaboration of musicians, each representing a Commonwealth country.

United Commonwealth COVID Music Project

The Secretary-General said: “Strings, woodwind, brass, percussion and the enchanting sound of the human voice of all ages, arranged in one powerful performance to the backdrop of the Commonwealth’s villages, cities and coastlines.

“It is a true reflection of the iridescent spectrum of our multidimensional, multicultural Commonwealth.”

She added: “As parts of the world descend into lockdown, as we face the heart-wrenching moments of saying goodbye to loved ones, as economic turmoil and uncertainty become our new norm, this video will hopefully lift our spirits and inspire hope for a bright 2021.

“This project reminds us that we are not alone and that whatever we face, we face as a family, rich in talent and innovation. It reminds us that we have all the tools to build back better.”

The Secretary-General pointed out the importance of considering the arts in COVID-19 recovery strategies.

She said: “It is not just about employment prospects and developing human capital, it is also about mental health and other health benefits.

“Research suggests that involvement in art or music not only raises morale, promotes a sense of community and improves personal resilience, but also has a measurable impact on stress levels and benefits the immune system.”

The Dionysus Ensemble

Delivered in partnership with a professional music group, Dionysus Ensemble, the project harnesses the power of music to lift spirits, improve mental health and encourage international camaraderie, as countries tackle the challenges of the pandemic.

Project Leader and ​Artistic Director of​ The Dionysus Ensemble, Léonie Adams, ​connected with high commissioners, musicians and participants to put together the inspiring soundtrack.

She said: “When I first listened to the finished project, the hair on the back of my ​neck stood up. It has been an amazing, exciting journey from Africa, to the Caribbean, to Asia to the Pacific, the Americas and right back here to the UK where I reside.

"It has been great to connect with people from all walks of life all over the world putting this together.

“It has been an incredible chance to share some joy and to create the most extraordinary network across the Commonwealth in a year when musicians' livelihoods everywhere have been hard hit.”

The Dionysus Ensemble is the Ensemble-in-Residence for the Commonwealth Resounds - the accredited music organisation within the Commonwealth.

You can listen and view the full track and the interviews with our participants here.

Photo credit: The Dionysus Ensemble

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