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European Unison

As the country reeled in shock and frantically Googled ‘What will happen if we leave the EU?’ in late June 2016, Ruth Spencer Jolly, an emerging artist specialising in “musart”, set to work on ‘European Unison’: a musical response to the political upheaval of “Brexit”.


‘European Unison’ was a performance intervention staged at Besbrode Pianos in Leeds on Sunday 26th March 2017, conceived by the emerging artist Ruth Spencer Jolly. 28 pianists gathered to represent the members of the European Union and play out the history of the EU from its birth to Brexit. The piece acted as a eulogy to the rich cultural exchange and peacekeeping cooperation we have turned our backs on. The ensemble of pianos demonstrated that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. European Unison would not have existed without the generous support of Melvin Besbrode & Besbrode Pianos, Leeds. Thank you also to Cause UK for their work on the piece's publicity, and most importantly to the 28 pianists who brought the project to life! To witness the press coverage of the event please follow this link.

The ‘leave’ campaign’s sales pitch that Britain would be stronger alone feels completely out of step in the context of a society exposed by the referendum result: divided; anything but a united kingdom. Turning in upon ourselves and wading through the diplomatic rigmarole required to disentangle ourselves from the outside world sounds like suitable red herring, distracting us from the real task of confronting the inequality, discontent and division within the our nation.

‘European Unison’ originated from a place of shock, anger and above all a frustration at the pointlessness of the whole endeavor. The cost, the hassle, the manpower, the political and media’s focus that Brexit will absorb feels inefficient and wasteful in the face of much needed political reform and social intervention. The damage to the pound sterling, job and travel opportunities will impact a young generation of people disillusioned by the obstacles thrown in their way- the financial crash, tuition fees, rising house prices. This generation, born European citizens, voted predominantly to remain, and yet they are the ones tasked with rebuilding the infrastructure of our country.

The silver lining of Brexit has been the solidarity that has emerged within the ‘remain’ community, determined not to be disheartened in the face of a disappointing result. As proof of this spirit of cooperation, 28 pianists of many nationalities and backgrounds unite at Besbrode Piano shop in Leeds to perform ‘European Unison’. The piece celebrates the rich cultural diversity within the European community and mourns our rejection of cooperation and collaboration.

Issue #12 of ALL-OVER magazine will feature an interactive online exploration of the European Unison Project. Release date 3rd May 2017.

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