The livelihood of artists across the country are in dire straits due to government measures to limit public gatherings – including religious services – to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. For Catholic musicians who practice music in service of the Mass the loss is twofold: the loss of access to the Sacraments as well as for some, access to income.
The Catholic Weekly spoke to Martin Hartley, casual organist at Saint Margaret Mary Parish Merrylands and chorister at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta, on the financial impact of COVID-19 on the livelihood of himself and fellow artists.
if we don’t play we don’t get paid
“Music for me represents between 30-40 per cent of my income in a typical month. Us musicians get paid by the job so if we don’t play we don’t get paid,” he said.
“This represents a significant loss of income and as a sole trader I am not really covered by schemes by the govt to assist small businesses. The thing is this it is not just affecting musicians – it is affecting all artists.”
For Mr Hartley however, who performs on a casual basis, the loss is not so severe. However this is not the case for full-time professional musicians who rely on gigs for their whole income.
“I live with my family and I am not supporting any dependents. But I have a quite a few friends who are professional musicians and music is their only source of income.”
music is their only source of income
For many Church musicians these abrupt changes are forcing musicians to look for employment in other areas. “This ordeal could blow over in a matter of weeks or it could be a few months,” said Mr Hartley. “The thing is we just don’t know. A lot of us have put in extra job applications to places like Coles and Woolworths hoping we can pick up something to supplement our loss of income.”
“The arts have always suffered in times of distress but we have always come back. We may just have to look to other lines of employment in the meantime,” said Mr Hartley.
The arts have always suffered in times of distress but we have always come back
The Catholic Weekly also spoke to George and Esterina Azzi, a young couple from Sacred Heart parish in Villawood. Esterina is the volunteer parish organist at Sacred Heart – and has been for the last seven years. For Mrs Azzi, her musical abilities are now utilised for prayer within the family home.
“In lieu of attending Mass, we hope to nourish further and create our own little “domestic Church”,” the Azzi family wrote in an email.
“We had already commenced, and intend to continue as far as possible, watching live streams of Maronite and Roman Catholic Masses and devotions offered by parishes around us.”
“Esterina can play the hymns – on our piano at home – that she would otherwise have played at parish Mass. And we intend to read and reflect on the day’s Scripture passages and make a spiritual communion together.”
The Azzi family are expecting their newborn child in April.
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