Singer Wim Hoste has performed at many shows, just not like this one. The room is bare and there are only two people in it - one of them is him. The pianist is another. And together they are going to play iterations of songs from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Michael Buble and Andrea Bocelli.
This is a live-streamed performance for music lovers around the globe.
He’s been playing ‘live concerts’ during the past six months from his house, from other spots - on Thursday, he performs at House of Pianos, in Dubai’s Al Quoz. He is experimenting with what he believes is the future.“This is the concept that’s going to work for the future. The combination of having a social distancing audience which is live - [for example] those [venues that] have 2,000 seats will maybe have 50. But the 50 seats will be paid [for] of course, but [at a] higher price and then at a very low price people can livestream it.
“It’s not possible to see it free. So that means the venue can have revenue from the live streaming online and the people in the audience. And because we cannot have the same audience as before it’s going to be difficult,” he says.
And he’s determined to be a pioneer of the new frontier. This time around, he decided the tickets for his show would cost a nominal Dh15.
He says he’s not expecting a huge audience. “I’m not expecting a huge crowd to do that but I need to set milestones…And this is a little step forward, to make a little bit out of it. So I can pay the people around me, who are spending their time and energy,” he laughs.
It’s not that the format is easy, insists Hoste who had gigs lined up in his native Belgium and Sweden pre-COVID-19 travel restrictions. It’s just that “we must adapt,” he insists.
Molding himself to new discoveries is something Hoste knows much about. He grew up wanting to sing but an unfortunate run-in with a doctor at age 11 who told him “if you make all this noise you’ll lose your voice by the time you are 30” meant an immediate stop to his plans. The frightened boy decided to expend effort on a different hobby, sports, and went on to become a professional athlete. In those days, he recalled, his career options would be limited post sports college - they all pointed to the job of PE teacher. So he turned to another love - and got into the business of travelling. He’d go on to get married, have kids, and be successful in his career.
It would be years before the now airline employee would get back to his dream. And it would be serendipitous. A trip to a karaoke bar and the reception his singing got pushed him to go to a doctor and enquire about his vocal chords, which had apparently been fine all along.
Finally, at 40, it was time to follow the need. It was time to sing.
In this period, recalls Hoste, “I was lucky to have savings to be able to fund my dream but there were some pretty dark moments when I thought of letting go and finding something to do 9-5.” But that spark of hope and support of family kept him going.
Now as the world slips into another dark daze, complete with social distancing to keep infection at bay, Hoste is getting ready to adapt again. This time to music is an audience-less hall. Without laughter or clapping, but with all of the cheer.
Virtual tickets to see Wim Hoste featuring Clarissa Zaruk are Dh15 and available at Platinumlist.net