The Week in Review: Summer of Change, Op. 2

June 16, 2020, 10:31 AM · As the spring of 2020 gives way to summer, the music we see online is evolving from the posts that musicians offered to give solace during the early days of a pandemic to innovative projects that allow artists to keep in touch, work together and continue performing, despite the cancellation of so many concerts. This week you'll hear three wonderful collaborations that demonstrate how non-profits are banding together — an approach, I believe, that might keep many organizations afloat during these turbulent financial times. And you’ll also hear ways musicians continue to raise their musical voices in solidarity.

Summer Op. 2


As we move from solace videos to pragmatic videos, nonprofit organizations are reaching out to one another in a truly collaborative manner. In this stunning video, members of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra and the Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk join forces for World Oceans Day. Led by Music Director Jonathan Yates on keyboard, enjoy "Aquarium" from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. (Don’t miss the glass harmonica and the jelly fish!)

If I had a nickel for every time I was teased about playing the violin when I was a little girl, I’d be a wealthy woman today. Oh, and those little boys asking if my case held a machine gun. (There were times I wished… anyway.) As I got older, being a violinist was simply accepted and the stigma of having my violin for an appendage subsided. How I wish, back in the day, there were über-cool violinists like Roberts Balanas that I could have pointed to as a role model. Here’s Roberts playing his wonderful arrangement of Elton John’s "I’m Still Standing." (Who needs a second violinist when your left-hand pizzicato is strong and you can accompany yourself just fine?)

What happens when you put the world’s kindest concert violinist in the same space with a first-rate teacher and the cutest six-year-old Suzuki student in the universe? Magic, that’s what! And that’s exactly what we got on the June 14 debut broadcast of GILharmonic on with Gil Shaham and Laurie Niles. I simply can’t categorize the show as a master class, because it was so much more interesting than your average master class. Three talented violinists performed for the hosts: six-year-old Joanne Zhu (giggly, talented, tiny violinist), University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music student KayCee Galano (poised, mature, gifted young performer), and gypsy jazz violinist Jason Anick (brilliant creator of the J-Tude). If you missed the livestream, catch it here! (And please tune in Sundays at 11AM PT/2PM ET for the remainder of the summer on YouTube, Facebook, and

Leave it to Northwestern University to bring together talents from its music and medical schools in an effort to "convey the importance of collaborative work between musicians and health care professionals." contributor and Bienen School of Music violin professor Desirée Ruhstrat, Northwestern Medical Orchestra conductor Taichi Fukumura, and pianist and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Feinberg School of Medicine Borna Bonakdarpour join forces for the second movement of W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 20. (Professor Bonakdarpour states that music functions as psychological first aid. Well said!)

A collaboration between New York City Ballet dancers and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center resulted in this joyous performance of J.S. Bach’s Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat Major, BWV 1051. This mini-ballet is part of Lincoln Center’s #ConnectingForCulture, "an initiative to unite our community, reinforce the role the arts play in everyone’s lives, and galvanize support as we navigate the continued challenges ahead." (The choreography was created by the dancers: Tiler Peck, Troy Schumacher, Lauren Lovette, Ashley Boulder, and Peter Walker)

With social-distancing in place, we’re all struggling to figure out how to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other group events. Gunnery Sargent Sheng-Tsung Wang, Associate Concertmaster of the United States Marine Band Chamber Orchestra, wasn’t about to let one very important anniversary for violinists go unnoticed — the celebration of the 300th year since the writing of J.S. Bach’s monumental Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor. Sgt. Wang’s fellow section mates, including contributor Peter Wilson, performed a virtual relay of the piece. (And it is stunning!)

In our continuing commitment to bring #TakeTwoKnees performances to our readers, here is violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins performing a heartbreaking trio (with her two other selves) of Samuel Barber’s Adagio. (I have profoundly appreciated all the #TakeTwoKnees performances I have heard to date, but this one I found particularly moving.)

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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June 17, 2020 at 12:46 AM · Kelly Hall-Tompkins plays so beautifully!

June 17, 2020 at 03:17 AM · What a marvelous roundup of activities! Thank you! The aquarium was stunningly beautiful! I loved Laurie’s masterclass. It was fascinating to listen to everyone especially Jason talking about his J-Tudes. I haven’t heard a masterclass for a while and it took me back to my stage managing days at IU when I could go to a masterclass every day of the week (not to mention concerts, opera, dance…)! Heaven. At the beginning when Laurie mentioned that she would read Goodnight Moon, my heart skipped a beat as that was my favorite bedtime story to read to my daughter who has somehow become 37 years old! Sigh! And Gil’s joke “I’m Seitzreading” - it didn’t look like Laurie got it. But of course, in the end, it’s about the music and the music is heaven. Yes, it does function as psychological first aid as it is synonymous with emotion. It is emotion. And today we need that first aid and need to let our emotions run wild. I look forward to next week's roundup.

June 17, 2020 at 03:34 PM · Of particular interest to me was the Saint-Saens from the folks in Norwalk, CT. It isn't every day you get to watch and hear a glass harmonica live! The marriage of the music to the undersea creatures reminded me the Respighi/whales sequence in FANTASIA 2000. Beautifully played by the musicians of the Norwalk Symphony and the images from the Norwalk Maritime Center were mesmerizing. I have enjoyed many family outings in that intriguing museum and was happy to learn that they are reopening soon.

June 17, 2020 at 05:24 PM · 61.87: I agree!

Joe: Wonderful comment, as always! (By the way, I think Laurie was taken aback by Gil's pronunciation of Seitz. Most of us learn the "s" sound as the initial consonant, but Gil went with the "z.") And maybe we can convince Laurie to read Goodnight Moon at some point!

228.17: It really was so much fun to see the glass harmonica played! Thank you for your lovely comment.

June 18, 2020 at 12:36 AM · I was looking at my calendar today and saw all of the concerts that I was supposed to have gone to or performed in this spring. Each one had "Cx" next to it. And I had a pile of announcements of summer concerts, plays, ballets, the Tanglewood season, etc in a pile next to the calendar. I just threw them all away because they have been "Cx'd". And the Fall doesn't seem any more promising for live performances. So these "The Week In Review" are my life line to the world of classical music. I so enjoy hearing these wonderful musicians. Thank you!

June 18, 2020 at 05:22 PM · I thoroughly enjoyed the Norwalk Symphony collaboration with the Maritime Center. Well done and gave me an opportunity to hear the glass harmonica for the first time.

June 18, 2020 at 05:36 PM · 120.152: I share your pain about all the cancelled events. I am so happy that the weekly column brings you such enjoyment. Thank you for the wonderful comment!

Teresa: Thank you for bringing the Norwalk Symphony/Maritime Center collaboration to my attention last week! There is so much great music happening out there and this is an example of something I never would have known about without you!

June 20, 2020 at 11:18 PM · I really liked the Chaconne as played by the members of the Marine Band Chamber Orchestra. Some of my colleagues in music school were in ROTC, and occasionally they attended orchestra rehearsal in uniform. This beautiful performance put me in mind of them. I know they will enjoy it as much as I did, and I'm thrilled that sharing this link will give me the opportunity to catch up with them! As always, though, all of the performances were inspiring, and each in a different way. Thanks for pointing our ears toward these musicians this week.

June 21, 2020 at 12:45 PM · 237.207: The Chaconne played by the Marine Band Chamber Orchestra members was one of my favorites, as well! There really is something about seeing them in uniform and hearing them play so beautifully that is awe-inspiring. I'm glad it brought back good memories for you. And I hope you catch up with your friends from the past! Thank you for the lovely comment.

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