The Week in Review: Summer of Change

June 9, 2020, 9:45 AM · 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.

* * *

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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Replies

June 9, 2020 at 06:40 PM · Knoxville Opera is committed to rescheduling our production of Okoye's HARRIET TUBMAN as soon as possible. It will be our privilege to present this brilliant work of musical theatre honoring the legacy of an inspiring, great American.

Brian Salesky

Executive and Artistic Director

Knoxville Opera

June 9, 2020 at 07:54 PM · Another fantastic array of links you have collected! A summer of change is a brilliant new way to survey what technology has to offer at this unique time. I feel honored that you felt my report about Boulanger could be included. Gratefully, Christina

June 9, 2020 at 08:00 PM · I am so very grateful that music is allowing us to come together and process our world events, while I am at the same time heavy-hearted that this even has to be the case. One day we will be able to return to celebratory music that does not come from a place of necessitated cognitive behavioral therapy.

I love how much time MIT took to piece together that video. One day historians will point back to our many Zoom concerts and have a great deal to say. Thank you for the thoughtful article, as always!

June 10, 2020 at 02:34 AM · Quite incredible to see how being in quarantine and not being able to publicly perform has brought out such ingenuity, creativity and artistry among these musicians. Thanks for showcasing these videos, Diana.

June 10, 2020 at 05:23 AM · As I watched and listened to Comusica’s music experience I thought to myself how could anything be more creative than this! The tech once again was beyond amazing. Wow! I am in awe. And by the way, I did see amongst all the singers, one violin player for 2 seconds! I watched it twice to be sure that she was the only instrumentalist.

But the pièce de résistance: Auf dem Wasser zu singen! I don’t know where to start with that, but when I saw it there in print and then listened and watched it, I was deluged with a flood of marvelous childhood memories. It is the first Schubert lieder that I ever heard. It was immediate love and it opened up a whole new facet of my musical world as a child. My mother was a wonderful pianist and was my piano teacher (can be good and can be bad to have your mother as your teacher). The vision of my mother’s record album (is that what it’s called?) with a recording of Auf dem Wasser zu singen that I’ve had since childhood came to me immediately. I ran downstairs and found it! Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Schubert Lieder, Angel Records, Edwin Fischer, piano. There it was after all this time. The album cover looked exactly as I had remembered it! I remember being fascinated not only by her exquisite voice, but by the fact that the accompaniment sounded just like water. And the changes from minor to major! The text means so much more to me now of course. It was heaven listening to her sing again! And how beautiful the arrangement you posted was also!

Finally, what a pleasure to hear the selection from Harriet Tubman, the opera that I would have stage managed at Knoxville Opera last month. And how wonderful it was to hear and see my friend Janinah Burnett sing again. And yes, we will bring this production to Tennessee as soon as possible!

June 10, 2020 at 10:03 AM · Brian: That is great news!

Christina: You, and those wonderful boys, were a lovely, entertaining, and educational addition to the feature. I loved the NY Phil anecdote!

228.17: You make a great point! I'm fortunate to have a cousin who is an MIT alum, or I'm not sure I would have ever seen this amazing clip.

56.54: Quarantine certainly did not limit the creativity of many artists. Thank you for the kind comment.

Joe: I honestly remember the Schwarzkopf recording! What a wonderful memory you shared! And I completely missed the violinist in the MIT video, but will go back and find her. Janinah is nothing short of amazing! Sounds like Tubman remains in both our futures.

June 10, 2020 at 09:22 PM · Thank you again, Diana! I agree with Christina about the "Summer of Change" perspective and was thrilled with her and her sons' delightful presentation on Boulanger! The MIT performance brought tears to my eyes, and I thought about posting the very moving Yves Dharamraj performance to my work Slack "random" channel, but haven't done it yet. I particularly liked hearing David Lockington play the Bach. I actually remember when he was Assistant Principal in the Denver Symphony, so its beauty in his hands was no surprise to me. And I love it that Scott Slapin does not consider the Bach and the Paganini to be transcriptions--well put, and appropriate coming from him! And I can't wait to be in the audience for Knoxville Opera's Harriet Tubman! The artists you showcased here make me even more ready to experience that performance live.

June 10, 2020 at 09:57 PM · 237.207: Thank YOU for the wonderful comment! I am so inspired by these wonderful musicians. And while I realize "Dido's Lament" was written for a mezzo (as I've sung it several times), I think Yves' arrangement might just be the most beautiful rendition ever. See you at Tubman, and soon, I hope.

June 10, 2020 at 10:37 PM · Thank you for such a wonderful assortment of music again this week. I look forward to these! And I agree that the MIT performance was very moving. As was Dido's Lament. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Tubman opera soon! Such a disappointment that it

had to be canceled.

June 11, 2020 at 02:13 AM · 120.152: Thank you for checking in each week!

June 11, 2020 at 06:44 PM · Joe told me about this post and today I finally had the time to read and listen to every selection (with Joe re-listening at my side!) We both cried many times filled with the emotion that music brings. I, too, cannot wait to see you and Brian and all the KO 'family.' I just said to Joe that the number of music presentations has grown exponentially in the last 3 months-so thankful we have this outlet to perform and watch so much talent! xoxoxo

June 11, 2020 at 09:53 PM · Lydia: Wow, what a wonderful comment! I really do believe we will all be together again soon!

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