Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony perform Mahler 2

Edited: July 17, 2020, 1:16 PM · This video was a long time in production--we recorded our individual videos in mid-May--but I think it is worth the wait! The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony along with members of the San Antonio Mastersingers and friends perform the end of Mahler 2. Singers are J'Nai Bridges and Deanna Breiwick; conductor is Sebastian Lang-Lessing. Friends and family members comprise a "live" audience at the conclusion.

(I am wearing black and white and standing in front of an antique clock)

Replies (27)

Edited: July 17, 2020, 1:34 PM · Oh wow. Fantastic!!
I've played this a few times now, but even over a laptop it gives goose bumps.
July 17, 2020, 1:31 PM · Awesome! What exactly is the role of the conductor in such a production?
July 17, 2020, 1:36 PM · I've done one of these things earlier this spring. One problem is that even with the click track, you don't always get a ton of guidance about when to come in and how to play when you do. Remember, you're alone with a sheet of music. Your notes might be cleaner than when you are in the orchestra, but you have no idea what the person next to you is doing. No big deal if it is strongly rhythmic music in one style, but difficult when you have a lot of transitions such as in the Mahler.
Edited: July 17, 2020, 1:39 PM · The one I did (with an unauditioned orchestra) was a movement from Swan Lake. Not a big deal, keeping up with dancers. Even there, though, we had the option of hearing the conductor along with the click/beat, who was reading off bar numbers and warning people of entrances. It took a lot of concentration-- I think I would have played better in spots if I didn't have to be alone. For much of it, of course, I was able to gauge tone color and intonation much more precisely than usual.
Edited: July 17, 2020, 3:46 PM · Jean, I am pretty sure that the click track was generated with the conductor's input. And we all had the conductor video available before recording. When I recorded my part, I had a second music stand behind the stand with the music (not visible in the frame) on which I had my ipad with the conductor video, and the click track going in my ear buds. Obviously the click track alone would have sufficed but it was helpful to glance up at transitions to make sure I was in the right place (rehearsal numbers also appeared in the corner of the conductor video).

Stephen, these videos are so hard to produce for exactly the reasons you lay out. I'm proud of the final product but there was not one minute of making my own video that was enjoyable. It took well over an hour to get a nine-minute video, and it was hot and uncomfortable because we had to turn off the a/c due to noise. Musicians can't adjust pitch or dynamic to each other, we're not breathing together, we're not responding to each other in any way. The main benefit is reminding our audience and donors that we exist.

Edited: July 17, 2020, 7:51 PM · These keep getting more and more impressive!


To those discussing the technical side:

I just recorded my fourth of these, with four different groups (three virtual ensembles, one with my regular orchestra). They've all done it somewhat differently. One was very bare-bones with just a metronome in ear. One was with a MIDI click track. One was a click track with a recording of the piece, with the person who prepared the click track also giving some verbal cues to enter after long rests. And the one by my regular orchestra had no click track, but instead we followed a video of our conductor beating time to a recording of our own performance of the same piece.

I'm preparing to record a fifth, this one with a soloist, and again prepared a bit differently. We'll be following a conductor video and an audio track that consists of the actual soloist's unaccompanied recording overlaid on a piano accompaniment track that was recorded to fit it.

I've noticed that a conductor video is much easier to follow through tempo changes than a click track. The conductor's movement between beats helps anticipate the change.

July 17, 2020, 8:42 PM · HOW TO GET YOUTUBE TO STOP TELLING ME TO UPGRADE TO PREMIUM WHEN I TAB OUT OF THE APP OR PRESS POWER BUTTON?!!!!!!!!!!!
July 17, 2020, 10:27 PM · Thanks for sharing - this is wonderful
Edited: July 18, 2020, 2:26 AM · Mary Ellen says "I'm proud of the final product but there was not one minute of making my own video that was enjoyable". Aye, there's the rub. An amazing technical feat but not a way forward
July 18, 2020, 8:58 AM · Superb! And the post-production is amazing.
July 18, 2020, 9:14 AM · Mary Ellen that was beautiful! I know it must have been a challenge to coordinate it, and maybe even bittersweet because you couldn't be together, but you all did a fantastic job!
July 18, 2020, 10:49 AM · Thank you. :-)
July 18, 2020, 1:28 PM · I'm reminded of the making of the Les Miserables "symphonic" cast recording, which apparently involved recording everyone in isolation booths, on a single-performer basis, spread out over the course of months. That was all the way back in 1988, and must have been zero fun.
July 18, 2020, 2:22 PM · Wow!Beautiful performance! That was quite an undertaking to put this together, but the results are spectacular!! Congratulations Mary Ellen! Thank you so much for sharing this!!
July 18, 2020, 2:56 PM · Thanks Mary Ellen! Bruce
July 19, 2020, 11:39 AM · This is gorgeous! Thank you for posting it, Mary Ellen. I've watched it twice now and it gave me goosebumps both times.
July 19, 2020, 1:08 PM · You’re all very welcome!
July 19, 2020, 5:57 PM · Xuanyuan wrote, "HOW TO GET YOUTUBE TO STOP TELLING ME TO UPGRADE TO PREMIUM"

Regrettably, by upgrading to premium.

July 19, 2020, 6:26 PM · The two soloists were fantastic.
Edited: July 20, 2020, 11:18 AM · Wow! This is very impresive! I'm sure a lot of work put into making this.

Playing orchestral musc with a click track and recording your part is an interesting way of doing things. It works quite well if the piece is straightforward with a steady tempo, but when you play something with lots of tempo fluctuations this way, it's much tougher because you don't have a lot of information to help you prepare and anticipate the tempo changes. I'm involved with a group of musicians on Reddit who do these types of projects for fun. The process is simpler since we only record audio and we avoid pieces with too much tempo fluctuation and difficult passagework. Click tracks have either been midi or fitted to a live recording from YouTube (no conductor videos here). Sometimes they may include voiceovers warning of tempo changes and so forth.

I agree with the people who said this isn't the most fun way to perform orchestral music because it's very hard to coordinate interpretive details and not being able to hear each other play makes this tough. I miss live ensemble playing, but right now we just have to do what we can virtually.

July 23, 2020, 11:59 AM ·
July 23, 2020, 12:00 PM · I sent the link to a number of my now ex-colleagues at Baylor. This is from Dr. Gary Mortenson, Dean of the School of Music:

Thanks for sharing Bruce.

Yes. “Incredibly moving” for sure.

There are things we can still do that COVID cannot take away from us and this is a good reminder that we are not powerless in the face of daunting obstacles. Music always finds a way as long as we remain resilient and open to experimentation.

Thanks for sharing this inspiring link.

Best regards,
Gary Mortenson

July 23, 2020, 1:31 PM · Thank you so much, Bruce!
July 24, 2020, 7:44 PM · A COVID-appropriate choice of music.

"O glaube
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._2_(Mahler)

I also enjoyed the performance of Nimrod. Thanks for performing and sharing it.

August 2, 2020, 10:53 AM · Wonderful, thank you!

What has been decided for your 2020-2021 season?

August 2, 2020, 1:04 PM · Everything through January 31 is canceled. We hope to be presenting concerts from February on.
Edited: August 2, 2020, 6:29 PM · The Boston Symphony cancelled the whole 20/21 season. If they can open up for individual concerts in 2021, they will consider it. But subscriptions have all been cancelled.


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