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Classical gets clever: Innovative offerings by musicians

Classical gets clever: Innovative offerings by musicians

'We’re trying to connect people. It’s what we’re all missing'
Classical gets clever: Innovative offerings by musicians
Photographer: photo provided

In photo: In a video on the Opera Saratoga Connect platform, a singer in Salzburg, Austria — Melissa Zgouridi, right — sings a Gilbert & Sullivan song accompanied by the pianist — Elias Miller, left — based in Albany. 


Keeping the arts alive has always included creative marketing. For local classical arts organizations, that’s become innovative virtual offerings.

“We’re trying to connect people. It’s what we’re all missing,” said Derek Delaney, artistic director of Capital Region Classical (formerly the Union College Concert Series). “We’re using music to connect.”

Each Monday night at 7 p.m., Delaney leads a discussion on Zoom after a work from the series archives is performed by a musician such as pianists Jeremy Denk or Jonathan Biss, or recently the Brentano String Quartet. 

“We discuss topics and engage in an interactive discussion,” he said. “They’re very lively. People get to ask questions and provide insights.”

On average, about 40 people Zoom in. Sign in at www.capitalregionclassical.org.

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“Chamber music is so intimate and it’s satisfying for me to know how meaningful it is to be together listening to the music,” Delaney said.

He’s also working on a pilot program with WMHT-radio  (89.1 FM) that will be similar and include discussions, artist interviews and performances.

The Albany Symphony Orchestra has numerous possibilities to connect. For years, the orchestra’s subscription concerts have been rebroadcast monthly on WMHT-radio with music director David Alan Miller providing brief introductory remarks. A few months ago, the station added the Symphony Hour at 6 p.m. every Friday, during which Miller introduces two works — a new work and a more traditional piece, from mostly recent concerts.

“Rob Brown [the emcee of WMHT’s daily afternoon classical music program]and I design the weekly programs,” Miller said. “We’ve had nice feedback, a lot from subscribers. And it’s been wonderfully comforting for me to hear the musicians, even if it’s weekly.”

People rarely get a chance to talk with conductors but they can Ask David (almost) Anything live on Facebook at 6 p.m. every other Wednesday starting June 17. People send in questions in advance and he’ll answer them on air. Other virtual events are COSMOS, which is Checking on Someone About Music and Other Stuff. These will be talks with composers — Miller’s favorite people, he said. And there’s Musicians Mondays, which are ASO musicians who have created a mini-video to share. Both programs’ schedules to be set.

On Mondays at 10 a.m., there’s Symphony Circle Time for parents and kids; and Symphony Kids at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays to introduce children to music.

“We’re exploring this new world,” Miller said. “We’re still expecting to provide our subscription concerts in the fall. We’ve been meeting weekly to discuss contingency plans to have a virtual concert hall — perhaps to have musicians co-locate with a smaller size orchestra.” 

ASO virtual presentations can be found on all social media platforms and on its website at www.albanysymphony.com.

Today’s amazing technology has allowed Opera Saratoga to launch a new platform called Opera Saratoga Connect that has six different programs that range from short videos to interactive trivia games (Tuesdays at 7 p.m.), classes, opera, vocal music and musical theater. One video has a singer in Salzburg, Austria singing a Gilbert & Sullivan song with the pianist who was based in Albany. There will also be free symposia that will begin in July with the first on Race and Opera and the second in August on Beethoven’s “Fidelio.” Some classes carry a modest fee.

The initiative is to create new content rather than streaming past performances by “producing a combination of newly creative video performances for social media as well as new opportunities to enjoy and learn about opera that are more interactive,” said Lawrence Edelson, general and artistic director of Opera Saratoga in an email.

Check www.operasaratoga.org/connect for all sites.

Musicians of Ma’alwyck is streaming past concerts from First Reformed Church at 3 p.m. every Sunday on their YouTube channel.

But artistic director Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz didn’t want to stop there. She thought music lovers might enjoy knowing and listening to the works that she herself had found inspiring over the years.  She calls her weekly program Musical Treasure Chests and she gives an extensive background of why she loves the works and the background on them. See www.musiciansofmaalwyck.org.

Her program has proved so successful that WMHT has asked her to do a Happy Hour on Zoom to discuss her Treasure Chests with a Q & A with a live audience set for June 11. Guests can register through the radio station. 

Music Hall ‘beat’

Most concert halls are silent these days but the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is different. They decided to create what they call The Beat a couple of months ago that weekly offers samples of various artists, funny skits, interesting art works and just about anything that viewers might find interesting and comes out on Saturdays. 

For instance, volume 16 of The Beat was focused on “The Classics.” This included a Bach Prelude from his Cello Suite No. 1 played by Yo-Yo Ma; a famous vocal duet by Delibes; a video from the Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration in Chicago; a re-creation of a famous work of art; connections to Peanut cartoons and Bruce Hornsby singing; and building a better squirrel trap.

According to Karen Good, director of marketing at the Hall, response to The Beat has been “fabulous.” Find it as well as numerous performances, funny pictures and hall facts at the Hall’s Facebook page and past issues of The Beat on www.nippertown.com.

Glimmerglass Opera fans can view an opera, sign up with artistic director Francesca Zambello’s Traveling IPad series in which she tells about her adventures directing operas internationally as well as giving favorite food recipes; or sign up for a blog about the company’s productions and the Cooperstown community at www.glimmerglass.org.

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company is offering its first online performance, As Close As We Can, at 7 p.m. on June 19 via Zoom Streaming that will include a live Q & A with director Sinopoli and company dancers. A donation of $25 is suggested and registration by June 15 is at www.sinopolidances.org/Virtual Performance.

Virtual SPAC

For anyone missing the summer classical season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center or Tanglewood do not despair. New York City Ballet offers archival performances of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Coppelia,” and a tribute to Balanchine through July 14 and the new ballet “A Part of Together” by company choreographers at www.nycballet.com.  The Philadelphia Orchestra has numerous virtual performances and workshops at www.philorch.org. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center gives a large assortment of concerts, live streams, masterclasses at www.chambermusicsociety.org. The Boston Pops presents weekly concerts, tutorials with orchestra members, and conversations at the Boston Pops at Home series at www.bso.org.

ESYO musicians 'Sounding Together'

The Empire State Youth Orchestra announced that the orchestra’s 40th birthday season will culminate in a digital festival featuring 13 ensembles and over 400 young musicians from around the region.

The three-night digital festival streams online on Facebook Watch and YouTube nightly at 7 p.m., beginning Thursday, June 11, through Saturday, June 13. The festival’s title, “Sounding Together,” comes from the root meaning of the word “symphony.”

The festival is a first-of-a-kind performance for ESYO and a direct result of the orchestra’s commitment to playing through New York’s COVID-19 pause.

“This festival is a celebration of learning and a testament to the resiliency of our young music-makers,” said Rebecca Calos, ESYO’s executive director.  “Like many schools and orchestras across the country, we’ve been challenged to learn, rehearse, and perform, apart and online,” she said. “I’m so proud of the remarkable creativity of our musicians and the dedicated conductors and teaching artists that have inspired ESYO to keep playing.”

The concept of “Sounding Together” started after a group of ESYO musicians and friends formed a virtual Jazz combo. Each member recorded their part at home using their cell phone, then ESYO musician Sam Hatfield mixed and produced the video.

Similar projects occurred in Symphony Orchestra after Music Director Carlos Ágreda, who has also been actively making music online with colleagues across the country, challenged members of the orchestra to collaborate and perform chamber music together online.

The “Sounding Together” festival is to feature many of the student-produced videos alongside virtual performances of all 13 ESYO ensembles and the virtual premiere of Ágreda’s original composition, Ay Caray!

“It was a process, and it was challenging,” said Ágreda. “The idea of synchronizing home performances in a grid-view video is not new, but we wanted to find a way to build an innovative virtual orchestra experience,” he said.

BHOS online

On its website, www.bhos.us, the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society — which is “looking forward to the day when we can gather as one to sing" —  is currently featuring a video performance of Craig Hella Johnson’s arrangement “I Love You / What a Wonderful World,” with guest artists The Musicians of Ma’alwyck.

 

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