Ever since last March, when concert venues were closed and our opportunities for enjoying live classical music abruptly ended, we have benefited from the amazing facilities such as Zoom and YouTube. Fortunately, many musical organizations have set up their own online programs for our benefit. Here are some suggestions for watching and listening. And please remember that these musicians are mostly without work while their venues are closed. Any donations to help, and for survival in some cases, would be greatly appreciated.
Organizations, mostly local, providing repeats of former concerts
The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, according to its musical director Cornelia Laemmli Orth, has its own YouTube channel where you can access a selection of past concerts. If you missed out in the past, or want to hear something again, here is your chance. The Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble has already provided two performances, but now they have announced that until it is safe to present music before a live audience, they are providing excerpts from their recording archive to enjoy. Check their website: https://fingerlakeschamberensemble.com/music-for-the-pause
The Cayuga Vocal Ensemble has samples from former concerts on their website. Check out cayuga-vocal.org. The Kennedy Center in Washington offers listening opportunities. One example is Couch Concerts – Live. You can find them at kennedy-center.org.
Opportunities for choral singers
Here is a chance for choral singers to perform remotely with people they don’t even know and also have the special pleasure of singing “together.” The Self-Isolation Choir started an online summer school, complete with warm-ups and rehearsals, all for free. Two sessions are done, but they will continue through the year. Between August 17-21 the group will tackle the well-known Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” then Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” in September and October. They will complete the series with “The Self-Isolation Christmas” with rehearsals starting in November to bring the joy of festive holiday music. Ben England, who is actually in the UK, is the music director. Go to https://theselfisolationchoir.com for more information and to sign up.
Last month came the information that Berkshire Choral International—a high-level choir camp held every summer since the mid-1970s—had set up a series of Conductor Chats. This organization has changed and evolved, but for many singers it has become the place for exceptional choral experiences and lasting friendships. The 2020 season was canceled in April. The chats, where music director Frank Nemhauser talked with BCI conductors, started in mid-June and ended last week. All are available on YouTube Premiere—just fill in Berkshire Choral International. And as 2020 marks the 250th birthday of the matchless composer Beethoven, BCI is offering a lecture series called “Hearing Beethoven Today.” It will be given by Richard Giarusso, chair of musicology at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and a former BCI faculty member. From personal experience, this series is guaranteed to be superb, and will be held Tuesdays, August 4, 11 and 18 at 8 p.m. For more information, try firstname.lastname@example.org or Google “Berkshire Choral International.”
The Choral Arts Society of Washington, a 180-voice chorus of amateur singers founded in 1945, since 2012 has been under the direction of Scott Tucker, known locally, as he was director of choral activities at Cornell for 18 years. His chorus has a lovely recording of Bruckner’s “Locus Iste” on its website, a fine example of remote singing. Also, you can find other selections from their archive. Consult https://choralarts.org/awe/.
And finally, opera for all
The Glimmerglass Opera canceled its live performances on May 5. But their first scheduled Town Hall conversation “The Role of an Arts Organization” was held virtually on June 19. For about one hour, issues of racism in the opera industry and, more specifically, at Glimmerglass were addressed. Joining artistic and general director Francesca Zambello and musical director (and conductor) Joseph Colaneri was leading bass-baritone, star of the Met’s hugely successful production of “Porgy & Bess,” and chair of the Glimmerglass Artistic Advisory Board, Eric Owens (He first performed at Glimmerglass in 2001). Zambello reported on specific actions already taken by the company, and all three answered questions submitted in advance by the “audience.” They all expressed the hope to be together soon putting on live performances. As Colaneri said, “art has to cure our souls.” The Town Hall series continued last week with Holocaust survivor Tana Ross. On Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m., Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking”—a book turned into a play, then a famous movie, and finally an opera—will talk with SUNY Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Teresa Miller. Glimmerglass also plans additional Thursday afternoon programs, called Glimmerglass Glimpses, every week at 5:30 p.m. through the month of August. The first one, two weeks ago, with Zambello as “announcer,” was a delightful collection, done remotely, of course—songs by the artists-in-residence for this summer’s season, William Burden and Isabel Leonard, and a poem recited by Eric Owens in his deep bass voice. Consult www.Glimmerglass.org for more details and to access previous programs.
The Metropolitan Opera Company, leading opera organization worldwide, plans to open its 2020–2021 season on New Year’s Eve. Until then, they will stream operas every evening at 7:30 p.m. Check www.metopera.com for the schedule. For two evenings in mid-June, the Met streamed a huge fund-raising gala over four hours, performed remotely by more than 50 star soloists, their accompanists, plus Met orchestra and chorus members. The participants, from locations (mainly their homes) in the States, Canada and Europe, put together an amazing show. The spirit, enthusiasm and artistry conveyed by these talented musicians was truly moving. Most amazing was the combination of orchestra and chorus members—a healthy number of them—performing Verdi’s famous chorus “Va, pensiero,” all conducted by the Met’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. These two essential groups, by the way, have not been paid since mid-March. Here’s hoping the gala helped.
Remember the Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Met? They usually ended with the close of the season, but for these unusual times, the company has provided performances this summer from the archives on Saturday afternoons. Our local PBS station WSKG declined to broadcast them, but thanks to a faithful New York station at 105.9 FM, you can hear them starting as usual at 1:00 every Saturday afternoon. If you want to know what is on the next week, it will be announced at the end, and, if needed, an earlier starting hour. Just Google WQXR opera and enjoy.