So he came up with the idea of the concerto: written with specific musicians in mind but available to any musician wishing to play it. At the moment there are seven movements, each for a different solo instrument, with digital orchestra accompaniment. Healey is writing them as the inspiration strikes, and he anticipates a couple more movements before it feels like a complete work.
“Then I’m going to work out, if it were to be performed as a whole, what order would they be in and how I can balance that out.”
It might end up as a single large piece for orchestra, or an educational piece with narration like Benjamin Britten’s classic Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.
Healey says some of the individual movements were written to convey “that sense of isolation, or the frustration that can go along with the situation”; for the piccolo piece he “imagined musicians getting too heavy with the champagne”.
“Some of them were written just to be fun pieces, to give [the players] something enjoyable to do: a mix that’s not too serious so they don’t feel like it’s some momentous burden on them, but also capturing some of the strangeness of the situation.”
Responding to life experiences “is an important role that art of all kinds plays, in terms of our psyches and how we manage those in times of crisis”, he says.
“There are going to be a lot of people who at the moment feel very strongly they’d like to go back to normal and pretend this never existed, but in 12 months’ time they might be in a frame of mind to reflect on that experience, to share without the weight of it still on them.”
The moment has had a personal impact, too: Healey, who moved to Melbourne in 2015 with his pianist partner, was due to be married on March 22; the wedding has been postponed.
“We are waiting until everyone can be there, for the domestic borders and travel restrictions to open up a bit, before we make any decisions,” he says.
In the meantime, while a lot of his work has gone by the wayside, including a planned concert of new Australian works, he is hoping to “get back up and running fairly soon”.
“But there’s a long way to go before things are in any sense ideal,” he adds.
In the meantime, he’s also writing a children’s book about a time-travelling dog.
Nick Miller is Arts Editor of The Age.