After 12 issues of "The Week in Hope-Inspiring Spontaneous Music Online," and as the country continues to re-open, we now shift our weekly roundup to "The Week in Review: Summer of Change." Throughout the summer, let Violinist.com be your guide as we discover the creative ways artists, students, venues, and festivals are coping with the pandemic’s aftermath.
We’ll continue to bring you wonderful online offerings. We’ll take a look at smaller, more intimate performances taking place within social-distancing guidelines. We’ll share innovative ways teachers are keeping their studios in tact and students are reacting to the challenges of online learning. And, later this summer, we’ll provide a glimpse of a few select online music camps and take you into the virtual classroom with some of the world’s biggest stars of the concert stage.
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As a proud mom of a college graduate, I remember the pomp and circumstance of my child’s commencement. I loved hearing the live orchestra and the wonderful speakers. And it was a thrill to watch the mortar boards sailing through the sky. But what did college graduation look like in the world of COVID-19? Leave it to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to come up with something that was exemplary and meaningful. Comusica, a participatory music experience that was the centerpiece of MIT’s graduation ceremony, features the voices of more than 800 MIT graduates and alumni, "stitched together into one of the largest crowd-sourced pieces of music ever undertaken." (I’ve been told these hundreds of video submissions were collected from students, each singing a single note.)
From Memphis, Tennessee to Salzburg, Austria, 21 young violinists got together to play "Meditation" from Jules Massenet’s Thais, or what I call "The Violinists’ National Anthem." The common thread amongst these students is a prior music camp experience, be it at Meadowmount, Bowdoin, or another professional-bound experience. (While they can’t get together in person this summer, these creative campers still managed to create this beautiful collage.)
Cellist Jonah Kim, pianist Sean Kennard, and San Francisco Ballet dancer Julia Rowe used The Palace of the Fine Arts as a stunning backdrop for their socially-distanced performance of Franz Schubert’s "Auf dem Wasser zu singen." Sean recorded his piano track, then it was played while Jonah and Julia performed live to a small outdoor audience. As Jonah states, "I couldn’t believe how many people stayed for additional takes, even though we took significant breaks in between to review. I think everyone is starved for art!" (Jonah, I agree!)
I’m not sure it would have happened regardless of COVID-19, but I’m definitely hearing more music by living composers than ever before. And I love it. Here, violin/piano duo Yang and Olivia play a live-streamed premiere of Dr. Michael Daughtery’s "Summer Rains." (I, for one, am thrilled to hear wonderful new pieces being added to the violin repertoire.)
Conductor, teacher, and doctoral student Christina Bishop put together a presentation on composer/conductor/musician Nadia Boulanger. Forced to create her presentation while in quarantine, she creatively decided to enlist some "helpers" — her four young sons. (If you have children at home, or even if you don’t, please watch this. I promise you’ll be moved.)
Cellist Yves Dharamraj performs a stunning five-cello arrangement of "When I am laid in earth" from Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as part of Anthony McGill’s #TakeTwoKnees challenge. As one commenter wrote: "Beautiful and truly moving. As a cellist, but mainly a human being, I thank you." (Yves, we thank you as well.)
In one of those magical moments, two artists previously featured in an issue of this column connected: violist Scott Slapin and ViolaPower’s Ronald Houston. Ron asked Scott to create an educational presentation for his violin/viola students, which now exists as "The Greatest Hits from the Twenties: 500 Years of Music History and the Viola." From his home studio in western Massachusetts, Scott gave this talk via Zoom for Ron's students in Texas. The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session. (Bravo to you both for creating this unique cross-country connection!)
Dr. Psyche Loui, Longwood Symphony Orchestra violinist and Suzuki mom, is joined by her daughter in a wonderful rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle." The duo demonstrates my personal belief that you can never take too much time to figure out where the third finger should be placed on a new string, nor is it ever too early to take two knees. (Precious!)
Cellist David Lockington plays the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. If you think you know David as Maestro Lockington, you would be correct. He leads numerous ensembles, including the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. Here we see the Maestro’s more personal side. (And, may I just say, the man can play!)
In a continuation of our coverage of New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill’s #TakeTwoKnees challenge, we present a tour de force of black wind and brass players from a variety of U.S. orchestras and university faculties. For this stellar performance of the Black National Anthem, arranged by Fred Onovwerosuoke, featured are Demarre McGill (Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Principal Flute), Ebonee Thomas (The Dallas Opera, Second Flute/Piccolo), Titus Underwood (Nashville Symphony, Principal Oboe), Geoffrey Johnson (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Acting Second Oboe), Anthony McGill (New York Philharmonic, Principal Clarinet), Alex Laing (Phoenix Symphony, Principal Clarinet), Andrew Brady (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Principal Bassoon), Marlene Ngalissamy (Marlboro Music Festival & Curtis Institute 2020), Anthony Parnther (San Bernardino & Southeast Symphony, Conductor, Contrabassoonist), Jeffrey Scott (Oberlin College & Conservatory Professor of Horn, Imani Winds), Amanda Collins (University of Missouri, Assistant Professor of Horn), Priscilla Rinehart (Sarasota Orchestra, Second Horn), and Adedeji Ogunfolu (Pacific Symphony, Second Horn). (Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this.)
And now, our grand finale. My last public outing prior to the lockdown was a chorus rehearsal of Nkeiru Okoye’s powerful opera Harriet Tubman. The 13-voice choral ensemble had been rehearsing since January and I was thrilled to be in the cast. The excitement in my town for the early May performances of this inspirational opera was palpable. The letdown when we learned it would be postponed was dramatic. Yet I fervently believe the resounding chorus of "Keep on going" from the opera’s climax could not be more relevant today. American Opera Project (producer of the original production) in partnership with The Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene (BrRIC) brought together cast members from AOP’s 2014 world premiere, the pandemic-postponed 2020 production at Knoxville Opera, and guests to sing these words attributed to Harriet Tubman as a new message of hope. Their moving dedication is shown at the end of the clip. Performers include: Sumayya Ali, Janinah Burnett, Charles Carter, Christiana Cole, Vincent Davis, Sequina DuBose, Patrice Eaton, Hannah Fuerst, Kyle Guglielmo, Mila Henry (piano), Briana Hunter, Ernest Jackson, Cornelius Johnson, Tesia Kwarteng, Jasmine Muhammad, Damian Norfleet, Jubilant Sykes, Leslie Tay, Louise Toppin, Julius Williams (conductor). (I know that all of us in Knoxville maintain our commitment and enthusiasm for bringing this production to Tennessee as soon as possible!)
With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of “summer of change" activities. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, teaching experiences, camps, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.
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