Derek Delaney, the artistic director of the Capital Region Classical series usually held at Union College, has been busy. Rather than being sidelined by the virus, he’s created not only virtual conversations via YouTube and Zoom but a radio show devoted to spotlighting past performances by the many great classical music performers who’ve played on the series.
“Once the virus hit, the goal was to connect with people,” Delaney said. “Chamber music is very intimate and the audience is like a little community.”
The series, formerly known as the Union College Concert Series, is almost 50 years old and averages about seventeen concerts a year. With people subscribing year after year to hear these concerts at the college’s Memorial Chapel, Delaney knew it was essential to keep the music alive.
“It’s been very impactful,” he said. “The response has been incredible.”
Initially, he began May 25 with YouTube conversations about such topics as specific composers, styles of composing, or how various artists interpret specific works. Subscribers and fans connected through the series’ website www.capitalregionclassical.org. Word got around and Rob Brown, the music director at WMHT-FM, learned about what Delaney was doing.
“He wondered if I could bring something different to the station,” Delaney said.
On July 13 on radio, “Inside the Music” at 6 p.m. every Monday began. At 7 p.m. Delaney opened a Zoom session through the series’ website (wmht.org/classical) for anyone who was interested in talking about what they’d just heard as well as taking a “deeper dive” into the music, often playing other music by the same composer.
Two of those listeners, who have come to be regulars are Brian Quiara of Albany and Gary Patrik of Rosendale. Quiara is an amateur violinist and graduate of East Greenbush schools who used to play with the Empire State Youth Orchestra but now works as a contract lobbyist. He also plays with the Delmar and the Union College Community Orchestras. Patrik played trumpet in high school before working in the insurance business in Manhattan for 30 years, but now, at age 76, has returned to playing trumpet mostly in student jazz bands.
“I’d been a steady patron for the series for up to ten years,” Quiara said, “but when I heard about the Zoom gatherings I decided to make room in my schedule. They’re right up my alley. I can’t overstate how important it is to get together with people in the area and talk about their love of this music. The performers are at the highest level. And the people on Zoom — up to thirty people — are so passionate and effusive in their praise. We’d really miss these conversations and I’m impressed with Derek’s style of hosting. He lets the music and other people do the work. He’s a huge well of expertise and shares his own passion. He also helps humanize the music with background about the composers’ lives.”
Patrik also attended the series every time he came to Union College to visit his sister, who taught there.
“I picked up Derek’s virtual in May. It sounded interesting and I wanted to see what it was,” he said. “I’m a subscriber to WMHT, so I’ve missed only a couple. Although I used to listen in high school to the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday broadcasts — my dad loved singing and I played in orchestra, but I played mostly in jazz. But my record collection is more classical than jazz. I’ve learned a lot with Derek. I like Mozart a lot and I listen to Renaissance and Baroque as well as Schoenberg, Berg and Stravinsky. In Manhattan I often went to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. But Derek is very knowledgeable. He has a great ear, finds good people to play these wonderful concerts and he has a sense of humor. It’s fun. Bless Derek.”
And Brown is especially thrilled by this new addition to WMHT’s roster.
“Derek’s doing a great job,” he said in an email. “It has been all we had hoped for and more. The response. . .from our listeners has been overwhelmingly positive. He has such an interesting take on the development of this music, and then to have the behind-the-scenes glimpses. . . and the relationships with the performers. It has been a lot of fun.”
Success, however, requires effort.
“I fully curate every show,” Delaney said. “There’s a lot of preparation.”
Currently, the show through December is celebrating Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, so Delaney has read several biographies — not to mention biographies about Bartok, Ravel, Debussy and Janacek, who were some of the featured composers on past “Inside the Music” programs; as well as books on the period, composition, and scoping through past series’ performances to select the pieces for each program.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said.
A virtual benefit called “Music in Thyme” is set for Dec. 5 that will be available through YouTube and Facebook. Cellist Oliver Herbert, who played in the series on Jan. 13, 2019, and will again in 2022, will perform three of Bach’s Suites. A food gift basket is being offered.