Welcome to Play On, California! A daily update on how musicians here in the Golden State are keeping the music playing while they’re sheltering in place. While the concert halls are dark, tune in to KDFC weekdays at noon as we shine the spotlight on our great California musicians. We’re also updating this blog daily, highlighting in detail some of the incredible efforts taken on by our arts communities to share music on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, their own websites and more! If you have any favorites to add, let us know in the comments. Music Heals. The Arts Unite. Play on!
Oakland Symphony (with members of the Chorus, Youth Orchestra, and MUSE educational program) has released an arrangement of the Bill Withers classic song ‘Lean on Me.’ Music Director Michael Morgan says they dedicate the performance “to the City of Oakland, our first responders, and to all in our community who are suffering. We know that music has the power to transcend, to move, to challenge, and to heal.” The arrangement, with a virtual performance by 130 members of the community, from ages 8-86, also pays tribute to the singer/songwriter who made it famous, who died at the end of March.
The USC Oriana Choir stands out from other USC Thornton School of Music ensembles in that it is open to non-music majors as well as faculty and staff. No audition necessary, nor even prior choral experience. The all-female group came together for their first virtual performance to express a sense of hope in these difficult times. This poignant song by contemporary Swiss composer Ivo Antognini is set to a text depicting a conversation between a refugee child and his father. The pianist is Thornton Master’s student Anthony Cardella.
A Thornton alum, flutist Gina Luciani, has been creating online content for years as both a performer and teacher, so she was ready for the switch this spring to virtual concerts. From her home studio, where she’s recorded music for The Simpsons and other soundtracks, Gina performs Passacaille by René-Emmanuel Baton, known as Rhené-Baton. The pianist is James Lent.
Pianist Lara Downes is featured in a new NPR Music Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, playing selections from her recent album Some of These Days. The music is arrangements of spirituals and freedom songs, works that tell of, as she puts it, “hope, and courage and survival.” From her home in Sacramento, she plays “Troubled Water,” by Margaret Bonds, Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s arrangement of “Deep River,” and the title track “Some of These Days” arranged by Florence Price. The last tune, she says, “envisions a better world, a world that’s going to come, some of these days.”
In past seasons, San Francisco’s Community Music Center has presented a fundraising ‘Performathon’ with an open house and two days worth of concerts to celebrate their Field Day. Gertrude Field was the founder of the CMC in 1921. All this week, they’re presenting a Virtual Field Day, sharing during the noon hour a livestream of curated performance videos from the CMC students. It’s on both their Facebook page as well as their website. There are also concerts by faculty in the Shenson Salons Free Concert Series, including performances by the Bernal Hill Players, violinist Michael Long, pianist Christopher Basso, and songwriter Larry Dunn. They take place through Thursday at 5:30pm on their Facebook page.
Even though we are excited to launch Virtual Field Day today, we feel the need to pause and reflect on the pain and turmoil in our world. Our hearts go out to the communities and families who are suffering right now because of the ongoing impacts of racism. We acknowledge the hurt and pain in our community, and we stand in solidarity with those who seek justice. It has always been CMC's mission to bring together a diverse and vibrant community through the unifying power of music. We are proud of our students, faculty, and friends for preparing these beautiful performances, and we hope the power of music uplifts you during this chaotic and painful time in the country.Donate to Virtual Field Day by giving at: https://give.classy.org/FieldDay2020. The full program for today’s show can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/Virtual-Field-Day-1 Today’s performers are: Christelle Durandy with the Pacific Mambo OrchestraMax GleasonBayanihan ChoirJonathan Smucker & Michael MohammedMailey GannonMomoko PetrucciYaretzi RodriguezScout KamrasAlexis MartinezPaul DabLogan HedgesLogan HedgesOmer OsmanManuela PennesElmira LagundiJose HernandezAndrew PotterZein AndersonSawyer BurdettBruce LoebJim AbramsSeñors Duo (Zein Anderson-Felix Elhauge Roniger)🌟 Learn more and support music for everyone at sfcmc.org/virtual-field-day#FieldDayOnline
Posted by Community Music Center on Monday, June 1, 2020
The curtain rises in Angel Joy Blue’s living room on the latest episode of LA Opera’s At Home Series. The soprano, a sensation as Bess in the Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of Porgy and Bess, trained in her native Southern California—she’s an alum of LA County High School of the Arts, University of Redlands, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and LA Opera’s Young Artists program. Angel’s astonishing voice and her warm, down-to-earth personality shine through this viral video, “Kids Meet an Opera Singer.” Maybe you’ve seen it? It’s been viewed more than 10 million times. Watch Angel Joy Blue’s LA Opera At Home concert on the LAO at Home website. And catch last week’s Living Room Recital by another starry alum of LA Opera’s Young Artists program, soprano Amanda Woodbury on Facebook.
Photo of soprano Angel Joy Blue by Sonya Garza, courtesy of Los Angeles Opera
Concerts by the conductorless chamber ensemble One Found Sound have always had a comfortable, social vibe to them, with players and audience members in close proximity, as you can see from the video below. So while they’re unable to have that kind of community experience, they’re hosting “watch parties” on Facebook instead. During the parties, they’re commenting and interacting with audience members, and then the performance is archived for several days. The next concert that they’re presenting, today at 5:30pm is Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, which they describe this way: “This minimalist classic accompanies a dramatic text that highlights the experience of isolation, the passage of time, and the need for togetherness.”
Though live orchestra concerts are on a long pause, the LA Phil has mobilized its musicians to produce an engaging series of At Home performance videos. Longtime Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang brings us one of the most beloved pieces in the violin repertoire in this new offering in the series. She finds in the Méditation by Jules Massenet “a profound sense of hope which takes on new meaning in these times.” At the piano, Bing’s son Andrew Gong.
Angel City Chorale, the 180-voice multicultural LA choir that made a big splash on America’s Got Talent, has been hard at work during the shutdown creating a fun and uplifting video with sky-high production values: Sogno di Volare or “A Dream of Flight.” It’s music of Christopher Tin that he originally wrote for the video game Civilization VI, and it’s become one of the choir’s signature tunes. The performance is led by Angel City Chorale founding artistic director and conductor Sue Fink.
With stars like ballerina Misty Copeland and singer Josh Groban among its alums, the Music Center of LA County’s Spotlight Awards program is a major stepping stone for young Southern California musicians and dancers. Since the Music Center is shuttered, the 32nd annual Spotlight Grand Finale goes virtual for the first time. The silver lining: anyone, anywhere can enjoy the remarkable talent on display this Saturday, May 30 at 7pm on their website or YouTube channel, and both Copeland and Groban will make appearances. How remarkable is the talent on display, you ask? Well, brace yourself for this Spotlight Prize-winning performance of music by Franz Liszt featuring then 15 year-old pianist Tyler Kim. This year some 1,400 applicants from more than 250 high schools auditioned for the Spotlight program, which includes free workshops and seminars throughout the year.
Spotlight Awards ballet finalist Ashley Lew is a junior at Capistrano Connections Academy in San Juan Capistrano. Photo courtesy of the Music Center of LA County.
[Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber's performance kicks off this presentation at approximately 5:50]This virtual celebration of our 2020–21 season features a violin performance by Stanford physician Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber, MD, remarks by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Stanford Live curatorial fellow Will Paisley ('20), a presentation by Executive Director Chris Lorway, a performance by musician and SFSU Associate Professor of American Indian Studies John-Carlos Perea, Q&A, artist shout-outs, and more.Check out our full calendar for performance details here: https://live.stanford.edu/202021seasonView our FAQ page for more details about our approach to the 2020–21 season: https://live.stanford.edu/faq2020
Posted by Stanford Live on Wednesday, May 27, 2020
It begins (at about 6 minutes in) with Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber of Stanford Medicine playing solo Bach for violin on the stage of the Bing Concert Hall. Stanford Live presented via a stream on their Facebook page a different kind of season announcement for different times, as Executive Director Chris Lorway explains. “Launching a season at this particular moment may seem like a very unusual thing to do. But we don’t see this as a season of fact. We see this as a season of hope. We hope that we’ll be able to bring performances to you in some form. It may be virtual, it may be outdoors, or it may be that we find ways to bring people back into the hall safely.” He says they’ll be following the guidelines of the University, county and state in making those decisions, and that they’ll be keeping in close communication with patrons and subscribers as it becomes clearer what the reality of the season will be. But the “Season of Hope” has the themes of Reconciliation and Forgiveness. There’s an opening statement in their brochure recognizing that “Stanford sits on the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe…” and the season includes performances by, and a spotlight on indigenous artists. There are also classical favorites, including the return of their series “Sundays with the St. Lawrence”. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are scheduled to play a concert including a premiere by Matthew Aucoin, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra will premiere a work by Samuel Adams. Branford Marsalis joins the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Joyce DiDonato brings her “Songplay” to Stanford, and Kronos Quartet accompanies the documentary “A Thousand Thoughts.” Chris Lorway says the season will be evolving as more becomes known, but even if performances with live audiences might take a while to return, they’re looking into the possibility of having artists’ residencies with streamed performances, as a way of both getting the art to audiences, and supporting the artists themselves
The Los Angeles Master Chorale is sharing the joy of choral music Sundays at Seven, offering full-length concert performances. On May 30th, tune in for Sonic Masterworks, a treat for the ears, ranging from baroque works to music of our time by Moses Hogan, Eric Whitacre, and Steven Stucky. A highlight: this 17th century sonic spectacular from the 17th century, Miserere by Gregorio Allegri.
For some 30 years, the Los Angeles Master Chorale has created a kind of high school super-choir comprised of 1,000 singers from throughout LA County who come together to raise their voices at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Since the kids can’t gather in person this year, the Chorale is presenting a virtual version of the festival. Tune in Wednesday, June 3rd at 1pm.
“San Francisco’s Musical Lunch Break,” Noontime Concerts, has posted this performance from its archives of Belgian violinist and piano duo Jolente De Maeyer and Nikolaas Kende playing music of Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The concert, from October of 2017, includes the Mendelssohn Violin Sonata op. 4 in F minor, (written when he was 14 years old), as well as the famed “Kreutzer” Sonata of Beethoven.
Long Beach Opera has launched a lively series of Artist Afternoons—performances, conversations, and interviews with its far-flung artists. Tomorrow’s 4pm livestream features soprano Suzan Hanson, who has performed more than 30 roles with the company. On Thursdays, the charismatic team of bass-baritone Cedric Berry and tenor Ashley Faatoalia hold forth on Cedric and Ash: In the House. Their engaging personalities and powerful voices meld beautifully. Both Cedric and Ash appeared in LBO’s The Central Park Five, which just a few weeks ago picked up the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In the House features performances and backstage stories. The two also share their special shelter-at-home skills, including recipes and home improvement tutorials! Long Beach Opera’s Artist Afternoons are livestreamed at 4pm on their Facebook page and check out the performances later on their website. Though it is known for its adventurous productions of new works and its innovative interpretations of the classics, LBO is actually the oldest professional opera company in the LA and Orange County areas. Next season’s roster includes an opera that had to be cancelled this season, The Lighthouse, written in 1983 by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It’s a kind of ghost story opera based on the real-life disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in turn-of-the-century Scotland. Here’s the whole 2021 season.
Photo by Keith Ian Polakoff from the Long Beach Opera production of Central Park Five, courtesy of Long Beach Opera.
Here’s Bay Area favorite Frederica von Stade starring in a full performance of a recent opera called Sky On Swings by American composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch. (It’s part of Opera Philadelphia’s “Digital Festival O,” which they’re calling Opera on the Couch). The work had its world premiere in the Fall of 2018, and was recorded at their Festival 018. It’s about two characters with Alzheimer’s Disease, sung by mezzo-sopranos von Stade and Marietta Simpson. Opera News described it this way: “Martha, already institutionalized and increasingly losing her gift of language, welcomes Danny (an accomplished researcher we follow in the wrenching stages of admission to the home), eventually deciding she’s a ‘summer friend, on whom she had a crush when she was a teenager.’ Danny, while glad for the company, initially resists this misidentification but eventually yields to it as a needed source of affection and support.”
For the next week on its YouTube channel, San Francisco Ballet is offering a performance that they gave of Christopher Wheeldon’s Bound To in March of 2019. It’s set to a score by composer Keaton Henson and has scenic and costume design by Jean-Marc Puissant. The production notes by Cheryl A. Ossola begin: “The curtain rises on Christopher Wheeldon’s new ballet, Bound To, to reveal the dancers mesmerized by their cellphones. For viewers, the moment of recognition is instantaneous—we are bound to technology. In this ballet, Wheeldon comments on what happens to us when we’re tucked behind our screens.” A familiar notion now that we’re so often using technology to remain connected with others.
Mix it up with the Maestro of Los Angeles Opera! Just in time for the holiday weekend, it’s a chance to grab a cup of java and hear company Music Director James Conlon answer your questions about the art form. Watch “Coffee with Conlon” on the company’s Facebook page. The new series kicks off Friday May 22 at 5pm, and is available on-demand following the livestream.
Santa Barbara-based Camerata Pacifica has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the best chamber music reason to get out of the house in these parts.” Well, we can’t get out of the house much these days, but you can still hear new performances by the ensemble — livestreams are presented every Sunday. These “Concerts at Home” can be heard at 11:30 AM on the ensemble’s Facebook page and at 10 AM and 6 PM on their YouTube channel. Presenting top chamber musicians from around the world, Camerata Pacifica normally performs each concert in four locations, from Santa Barbara to downtown Los Angeles. While the concerts halls are shuttered, check out its rich video archive, of past performances, including this stunner from earlier this season of a Wind Quintet by Carl Nielsen:
“Distance makes the heart grow/Even when I’m lonely…” In a new video, Chanticleer sings (appropriately enough) a song called “Distance” by soul singer/songwriter Emily King, (as arranged by Tim Keeler, their next Music Director).
The Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra has ended its season by releasing a full “Virtual Chamber Music Concert”, with fourteen ensembles of young musicians playing music by Vivaldi, Corelli, Haydn, Mozart, Delibes, Villa-Lobos, and more. To end the concert, they gave the virtual world premiere of Michael Murrin’s Fuel of the Soul, a brass and percussion piece for 26 players that was commissioned by the SRSYO to help celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.
PianoSpheres invites you to slip on your most elegant concert attire (sweatpants encouraged), grab a beverage of choice, and virtually attend a performance by Susan Svrček, a founding member of the series founded in 1994 by Leonard Stein. Susan’s spring recital was canceled but PianoSpheres has just released her performance of Frederick Lesemann’s jazzy |bar code| (dance music for two pianos), with pianist Nelson Ojeda Valdés. This is the world premiere performance from 2017. Lesemann is a Southern California native and Emeritus Professor of Composition at his alma mater, the USC Thornton School of Music, where he taught for decades.
Berkeley Symphony’s Music Director Joseph Young will be hosting “An Afternoon with Berkeley Symphony” this Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00. It’s presented by the Berkeley Relief Fund, which is fundraising for small businesses and non-profits hardest hit by the pandemic. It will include solo performances, interviews with Symphony players, and video footage from his first concert in the role of Music Director. Young was chosen for the job on the basis of a crowd-pleasing performance he led as a last-minute substitute for a scheduled guest-conductor. He’s also put together a Shelter-in-Place playlist of music that he’s been listening to while staying at home, currently in Baltimore.
Joseph Young | Photo by Jeff Roffman
Hard to believe the beloved Ojai Festival won’t be taking place as always early next month in beautiful Libbey Park, complete with picnicking on the lawn, the backdrop of a majestic oak grove, and aural cameos by Ojai’s contemporary music-loving bird population. But the Festival is keeping up with its audience through a rich archive of videos. In addition, every Thursday at noon, the Festival presents short videos for kids: free lessons in song, movement, and interactive musical play based on the nationally known Education Through Music curriculum. The latest Ojai Festival concert video, released this week, is a tour de force featuring Australian keyboard virtuoso Anthony Romaniuk. At his Ojai Festival debut in 2018, he presented on harpsichord and piano a wide-ranging (to put it mildly) recital, rapturously received. Now you can hear it in its entirety: some 450 years of music history, from 16th century English composer William Byrd to 20th century Hungarian, György Ligeti, with J.S.Bach, Bartok, and many more in between.
Cal Performances’ Executive and Artistic Director Jeremy Geffen has been curating an extensive list of online streamable content that they’re calling Now, More Than Ever. Reflective of the diverse programming that Cal Performances offers, this collection includes everything from a Bollywood duet to Isaac Stern playing Bach, and Gustavo Dudamel conducting at the Proms, to Michelle Dorrance tap-dancing at a festival in Stockholm. Geffen has been presenting the selections with detailed commentary on the Cal Performances website, explaining why he’s chosen to share them, often with personal stories about the works or performers. There’s also a YouTube playlist (without the commentary). In the most recent collection, he includes this performance by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński of an arrangement of a work by Stanisław Moniuszko. Orliński is scheduled to come to Zellerbach Hall in April of 2021.
With their long-anticipated (and fastidiously rehearsed) spring concerts sadly canceled, students at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music have found alternative ways to come together in performance. From their homes around the world, the members of the contemporary chamber ensemble uclaFLUX came together to perform some fascinating repertoire. Hungarian composer György Kurtág arranged this music from a Bach cantata for himself and his wife to play together. It’s performed here by pianist Duong Phan in Huntington Beach and Brandon Zhou in Albany, New York.
American composer David Lang wrote this homage to 15th-century composer Guillaume Dufay in 1992. The scoring is for a whopping six pianos. One of those pianos was swapped out for a marimba; it was the only instrument UCLA student Chris Hightower had on hand at his LA home. Joining Chris, in addition to Duong and Brandon (featured in the Bach piece above) are Hana Kim from Suwon, South Korea; Yi Sophia Ji from her home in Heifei Anhui, China; and their teacher, renowned Los Angeles pianist Gloria Cheng.
Recently, members of the California Symphony raised the spirits of area healthcare workers in an effort called #MozartForMedics. Concertmaster Jennifer Cho and principal viola Marcel Gemperli played a socially-distanced program of duets at the John Muir Health Walnut Creek Medical Center. The staff was starting 12-hour shifts and being screened for COVID as the music played, starting in the morning at 6:45. California Symphony reports: “The hospital says they have received generous donations from Safeway, Sees Candy and others in our community, however this is the first donation they’re received that addresses emotional support and healing for their healthcare staff. Music is indeed an undeniable balm!”
Members of the California Symphony about to some #MozartForMedics | Theisen Imagery
The Los Angeles-based Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra prides itself on its inclusive approach to classical music. No tickets required for their concerts; the mantra is “pay whatever makes you happy” and they perform largely in community venues such as churches, hospitals, shelters, and schools. The conductorless ensemble also strives to expand the repertoire. In the past few years alone, they’ve presented more than two dozen commissions. A recent international call for scores (with no application fee) elicited close to 8,000 new works from composers around the world. In addition to works selected from that bounty, Kaleidoscope’s 7th season will include commissions from such composers as Ted Hearne, Julia Adolphe, Billy Childs, Christopher Cerrone, and Anna Clyne. It’s not clear when concerts will resume, of course, so in the meantime check out past performances on Kaleidoscope’s YouTube page, including:
From December, a rousing Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by J.S. Bach.
And here’s Red, by Nina Shekhar. The fast-rising Los Angeles composer was just named USC Thornton School of Music’s outstanding master’s grad. Her works have been performed by the Jack Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and this splendid Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra reed quintet.
During the shutdown, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale has been making available on YouTube complete performances from its long history through its #PBOReflects program. The current video, available through the end of June, is from a concert with guest cellist Steven Isserlis from March of 2012. It includes the Schumann Cello Concerto, a Mendelssohn work called The Fair Melusine, and the Serenade No. 2 by Brahms, all led by Nicholas McGegan. Join their mailing list at their website to have access to all of their offerings!
For more than fifty years, Orange County choral music fans have reveled in the wide-ranging repertoire and exciting performances of the Pacific Chorale. The Chorale was to have concluded its 53rd season this weekend with a gala performance at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. But the choir is still connecting with its concert-deprived audience, introducing a new interactive feature on its Facebook page. Ask the Maestro is your chance to pick the brain of Pacific Chorale Artistic Director Rob Istad. Everything you wanted to know about choral music but were afraid to ask! Pose your choral query in the comment section of the Chorale’s Facebook page. That’s also where you can pick up some valuable choral cocktail advice from Pacific Chorale CEO Andrew Brown: the recipe for Trader Andy’s Mai Tai.
You asked the Maestro, and he answered! Marcia supplied a great question for Pacific Chorale's Robert Istad: In what ways were your parents musical? Here's Rob's answer.Have a question? Post it in the comments or use the hashtag #askthemaestro!
Posted by Pacific Chorale on Tuesday, May 12, 2020
On the Chorale’s website, you can hear some of its latest recordings, including their newest one, which features some haunting, never-before-recorded works by contemporary composer Tarik O’Regan, plus music of Jake Heggie and William Bolcom.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) has been busy creating fun and musically inspiring digital content since the moment their spring series was canceled due to the pandemic. The cancellation was a tough blow for the orchestra; this is Spanish maestro Jaime Martín’s first season as music director. Martín has already garnered raves for his powerfully visceral music-making with LACO and his vivacious personality. Writing about the first concert of the season, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed cited Martín’s infectious music-making: “He seems to be having a blast”, wrote Swed. “The musicians seem to be having a blast. The audience is invited to the party.”
If you didn’t get an opportunity to experience Jaime’s charm in person, now’s your (virtual) chance. This weekend he’ll be taking part in a chat with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the fast-rising young cellist of royal wedding fame and LACO’s artist-in-residence. Sheku will also be heard in a performance with his pianist sister Isata Kanneh-Mason. The livestream will showcase the orchestra, too, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica” led by Thomas Dausgaard. The livestreams take place on Saturday, May 16 at 8 PM, with an encore performance Sunday, May 17 at 7 PM on their website. Afterward, catch the performances on-demand.
Photo of Sheku Kanneh-Mason by Lars Borges courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
During the past weeks, Marin Symphony has released a series of videos on its YouTube channel with conductor Alasdair Neale and members of the orchestra (and some other special guests) in conversation. One of the recent videos has concertmaster Jeremy Constant playing Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thaïs, accompanied on piano by Peter Grünberg at a different location. Despite the free tempos, they were able to stay together beautifully in this socially-distanced performance!
The beloved denizens of The Magic Flute — Papageno, Tamino, the Queen of the Night and the rest of the gang — take a flying leap into the realm of 1990’s video games in Pacific Opera Project’s family-friendly production of Mozart’s beloved opera. This virtual voyage into the frenzied world of Super Mario Bros. and Zelda takes place Wednesday, May 13 at 5pm (and is available afterwards on-demand). The delightfully zany production is sung in English. Brush-up on Flute trivia, and check out suggested recipes, drinks, costume ideas, crafts, and games to play in preparation for the big show on their website. View the stream on POP’s Facebook page (where you can chat with the cast) or YouTube channel. For an example of Pacific Opera Project’s playful approach to opera: check out this 2019 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, anime-style!
On Thursday evening, the contemporary chamber group called Ensemble for These Times is going to present its program “Blooming Flowers: Music by Women Composers” via livestream. It’s part of the Center for New Music’s Encore Concert series, and originally took place live in January, to a sold-out crowd. The program features the world premiere of Weiwei Miao’s piano trio called “Blooming Flowers, Full Moon,” and works by nine other women composers, including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Victoria Bond, Chen Yi, and Aleksandra Vrebalov. Several composers and musicians from the concert will be available to answer audience questions as a part of a live chat through the Center for New Music’s Facebook or YouTube channel, or on their website.
The health benefits of choral singing have been well-documented. Now, as you shelter at home, the Colburn School invites you to practice this joyous form of self-care by raising your voice as part of Eric Whitacre’s Sing Gently, his 6th Virtual Choir project. No worries: you don’t need to be the next Renée Fleming to take part in this high-tech choral extravaganza. Virtual Choir 6 is open to singers of all ages and experience levels.
Eric Whitacre | Photo by Marc Royce, courtesy of the Colburn School
To participate, visit virtualchoir6.com, where you will be able to download sheet music, record your performance, and submit the video online. There, you’ll also find vocal warm-ups and workshops in composition and singing technique. The deadline for uploading your video is May 22. It was a little over a decade ago that the beloved Los Angeles-based composer Eric Whitacre created his first ground-breaking Virtual Choir as an experiment in then newish forms of social media. More than 20,000 singers have participated in the intervening years. Here’s Virtual Choir 3.0 Eric Whitacre’s Water Night, sung by nearly 3,000 singers from 73 countries.
The Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir has released a video of their ensemble Ancora singing “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” together (virtually) in anticipation of their Virtual Jazz & Beyond Concert. The full performance will premiere on their YouTube channel on Saturday, May 16th at 7 Pacific. It will include members of both the Ancora (high school-aged female voices) and Ecco (high school-aged male and female) ensembles, in solos, duets, and small groups, singing jazz-inflected a cappella works.
This weekend, San Francisco Opera will begin streaming archival performances at their website, from 10 am Saturday through midnight Sunday. The first presentation will be Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, with Nicola Luisotti conducting. The production, directed by Robert Carsen was from 2013, and stars Russian bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov in as the devil, with San Francisco favorite Patricia Racette in the roles of Margherita and Elena. It’s part of SFO’s Opera is ON initiative, to raise our spirits while we’re unable to attend live performances. Upcoming shows will include Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues), Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, and Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, with Renee Fleming and Michael Fabiano.
One of the advantages of being part of a musical family is that chamber music performances can continue, even while staying at home. Here’s the Costanza-Fong Trio, with Debra Fong, principal second violinist of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra; Christopher Costanza, cellist from the St. Lawrence String Quartet; and their daughter, violist Isabella Costanza, playing a String Trio by Schubert.
California Symphony percussionist Allen Biggs brings Bach outside, as he plays a bit of Bach’s Partita No. 1, originally written for violin, on his marimba in his driveway. There’s a profile of Biggs on the California Symphony website, referring to him as a ‘Percussionist-in-Place’.
Ahoy young mateys! Tuesday May 12th at 3:30pm, Opera Santa Barbara is pulling up anchor on its children’s opera Odyssey, last season’s Homer-inspired production featuring the Santa Barbara Youth Opera. The livestream sets sail on the company’s Facebook and YouTube channels. And here’s more on the company’s unique summer camp for kids ages 8-18. For more grown-up opera fare, check out Opera Santa Barbara’s production of The Crucible by American composer Robert Ward, conducted by company Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas. The Pulitzer Prize-winning opera is based on Arthur Miller’s play and available on-demand here:
Opera SB presents a livestream of Robert Ward's THE CRUCIBLE on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 5PM (PT)The Crucible is one of the most gripping works of American opera. Based on Arthur Miller’s play centered on the Salem witch trials, Robert Ward’s eerily topical opera is sure to make your pulse race. Originally performed on April 26 & 28, 2019 at the Lobero Theatre.Conducted by Kostis ProtopapasDirected by Stephanie HaveyScenic Design by Steven C. KempLighting Design by Jared A. SayegKourtni Dale Noll – Production Stage ManagerStacie Logue – Costume ManagerHeather Sterling – Hair & Makeup DesignT. Theresa Scarano – Props MasterEmilia Covault – Assistant Stage ManagerKatherine Belyea – Assistant Stage ManagerTodd Jared – Technical DirectorJane Hatfield – Costume Assistant/SeamstressAnya Matanovic as Abigail WilliamsWayne Tigges as John ProctorAudrey Babcock as Elizabeth ProctorRobert Norman as Samuel ParrisCorey Bix as Judge DanforthColin Ramsey as John HaleNina Yoshida Nelson as TitubaTHE CRUCIBLE Music by Robert Ward; Libretto by Bernard Stambler, based on the play by Arthur Miller, German translation by Thomas MartinCopyright © 1962 by Bernard Stambler and Robert Ward. Libretto and text for THE CRUCIBLE herein included Copyright © 1961 by Arthur Miller, Bernard Stambler, and Robert Ward. Based upon the play THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller, Copyright © 1952, 1953 by Arthur Miller. Earlier version Copyright under the title THOSE FAMILIAR SPIRITS. German translation copyright © 1963 by Highgate Press, a division of ECS Publishing. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission of ECS Publishing Group.Video by David BazemoreAudio by Opus 1 Mobile Recording#ShelterInStyleWithOSB #OperaSantaBarbara #OSBTheCrucible #opera #livestream #operasb #ArthurMiller
Posted by Opera Santa Barbara on Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Education through Music-LA, which provides in-school music instruction for 42 campuses across LA County, has quickly mobilized its staff of music teachers to create a series of brief, kid-friendly videos. There are several dozen tutorials geared to specific age levels. But truth be told even videos targeting the kindergarten set are so informative, those of you (okay, me) with music degrees, admittedly attained some time ago, can learn something! For grades K-2: there’s an 8-minute primer on differentiating between rhythms and beats. Intended for 4th graders, this video demystifies the tricky concept of musical syncopation. Here’s the complete list of classes.
The USC Thornton School of Music has expanded its new digital series Live! From Somewhere to include alumni in addition to students. Internationally renowned classical guitarist Michael Kurdika received both his bachelor’s and his doctorate from Thornton. With this performance he shows off not only his dexterity as a player, but also his chops as a luthier; he’s playing a “historical-style” instrument he made himself. Kurdika is best known as an interpreter of modern music, working closely with such composers as Thomas Adès, Veronika Krausas, and Jeffrey Holmes. Here, he looks back to the late 15th century, bringing us a haunting tune by Josquin des Près.
Playing music is a source of solace for many, especially now. After seeing his friends and fellow musicians sharing music online, USC Thornton alum Michael Kudirka wanted to share a performance of his own. Unlike most, however, Kudirka plays on instruments he makes himself. The startup he founded, MicroTone Guitars, makes guitars with interchangeable fretboards for a variety of historical tunings and temperaments. Using his specially made guitar, Kudirka is able to produce a beautifully layered performance of a 16th century tune, Missa L'homme armé sexti toni, by Josquin des Prez.Enjoy. Live from wherever we are.
Posted by USC Thornton School of Music on Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Current USC Thornton students looked back to the late 16th century for this next installment of the Live! From Somewhere series. These are members of the school’s Baroque Sinfonia, now required to rehearse (and in some cases graduate!) remotely. They came together virtually for this rendition of an aptly titled John Dowland tune, “Now, Oh Now, I Needs Must Part”:
USC Thornton Early Music ensemble Baroque Sinfonia rehearses and performs together remotely, recreating a previous live performance on video. In this installment of Live! From Somewhere, the ensemble performs "Now, O Now I Needs Must Part" by John Dowland, a piece they last performed in a 2019 concert. Though their members can't be together physically, they continue to craft beautiful performances together.
Posted by USC Thornton School of Music on Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Audrey Vardanega, pianist and founder of Musaics of the Bay, the concert series and mentorship program, has announced what they’re calling the Stay-at-Home Symposium. It’s a commissioning project that brings together composers, performers, and the general public. Through May 22nd, they’re asking for submissions from the community of works of art – poems, drawings, photographs, stories – that will in turn inspire composers to write new pieces of music. As they describe it, “the Stay-at-Home Symposium is a much-needed way for the community to motivate the process by which new compositions are created and performed. We hope you will share the creative pieces that you turn to in these difficult times so that our performers and composers can use them as the inspiration for new music.” When finished, the works will be performed on YouTube, and eventually, (when it’s possible to do so safely) also in a live performance. If you’re not artistically inclined yourself, you’re still welcome to submit a work by someone else that has inspired you, to bring it to the attention of the composers (so long as it doesn’t violate copyright laws). The participating composers listed on the website include Milad Yousufi, Yifan Guo, Nick Main, Hannah Ishizaki, and Lauren Vandervelden. There’s a submission form for this first round on their website, with additional details.
No sooner did their upcoming spring concerts hit the dust—a fate shared by every orchestra in the world-then members of the Pacific Symphony began creating Quarantine Clips, brief concerts from the musicians’ homes with a new performance added daily. Pacific Symphony clarinetist Joshua Ranz accompanies himself in an arrangement for clarinet and basset clarinet of a work by Gustav Mahler. It’s two minutes of sheer magic from “The Youth’s Magic Horn.”
Some of the Quarantine Clips showcase members of the orchestra’s youth training programs. In this one, violinist Andrew Kao, who plays with the Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings, tosses off a showpiece by Nicolo Paganini. Based on his poised and confident intro to the piece, he would seem to have a future career in classical radio if the violin thing doesn’t work out.
Jeremy Cohen, violinist and founder of the ensemble Quartet San Francisco, recently sent a note saying:
There are a few things I’d like to accomplish while on Lockdown.
1. Familiarize myself with more of Shakespeare’s works
2. Improve my Tap Dancing skills
3. Improve my video chops
Here’s what I got done today, I hope you enjoy it!
The tune is called Huckleberry Duck, and was written in 1939 by Raymond Scott, the bandleader and composer of many novelty works that were often quoted by Carl Stalling in classic Looney Tunes cartoons. The QSF video combines footage of the quartet playing in concert back in January at Commonweal in Bolinas, with at-home performances by Cohen, Joseph Christianson, Chad Kaltinger, and Andres David Vera.
From the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s At Home series, violists Ben Ullery & Dana Lawson bring us the beautiful slow movement of the Viola Sonata No. 1 by Brahms, as well as Frank Bridge’s Lament for Two Violas. In the first piece, Dana handily switches out her viola for a piano.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has launched ‘Season 2’ of Tiny Dorm Concerts, with live performances on their YouTube channel and the Tiny Dorm Concerts webpage on their site. Among the special guests included in upcoming concerts are Garrick Ohlsson (May 8) and Frederica von Stade (May 11). There’s a Roots, Jazz, and American Music program on May 9, as well as an Opera Scenes showcase on May 15.
Voices of Music has shared another of their performances in HD video, from a December 2017 concert, of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Kati Kyme and Elizabeth Blumenstock play the baroque viola (the so-called viola da braccio, because it’s held by the arm); Elisabeth Reed and William Skeen play the viola da gamba; Tanya Tomkins, baroque cello; with Farley Pearce on the violone (the double-bass equivalent within the viol family of instruments) and the group’s co-director Hanneke van Proosdij on harpsichord.
Among the many performances that have been put on hold, as we wait for the safe return of concert-going, was the West Coast premiere of a new work by Mason Bates called Philharmonia Fantastique. It’s a co-commission of the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It blends music by Bates with film and animation that takes the audience through (and in some cases into) the instruments of the orchestra, and their four “tribes” of strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Part Young Person’s Guide, and part Fantasia for the Pixar generation, the 25 minute work has an animated character called “The Sprite” who reacts to the music as it’s played on stage by the orchestra. Here’s a preview, with a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at its creation, with Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom from Skywalker Sound as director, and Pixar’s Jim Capobianco as writer.
The young musicians who rehearse so diligently as part of their rigorous training at American Youth Symphony faced a big disappointment this month: the cancellation of their ambitious spring concert. They’d been scheduled to play the U.S. premiere of a piece by American composer Richard Danielpour and the technically challenging Alpine Symphony of Richard Strauss. But you can still hear the amazingly rich orchestral sound they produce under Music Director Carlos Izcaray; videos on their YouTube channel include the all too rarely performed Third and final Symphony by Rachmaninoff:
Since Mehli Mehta took over the American Youth Symphony in 1964, the orchestra has served as a training ground for hundreds of professional musicians. Nearly 15 current players with the LA Phil are alums, and there are also former AYS musicians now playing with the San Francisco Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, LA Opera Orchestra, and the Pacific Symphony. To raise the funds necessary to continue to offer tuition-free training and free concerts, AYS is presenting its first Virtual Gala Thursday, May 7th at 4pm. The festivities include the world premiere of Music Director Carlos Izcaray’s new work entitled Geometric Unity.
Photo of American Youth Symphony Music Director Carlos Izcaray | Photo courtesy of the American Youth Symphony.
The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) is another top Southern California training program currently suspended. ICYOLA provides inner-city youth with high-quality music education and performance opportunities (including Kids Discovery Days). It recruits its orchestra members without auditions, so it’s open to all. Their upcoming Disney Hall concert is canceled, but now you can enjoy performances from previous seasons. Here Charles Dickerson (founder and executive director of ICYOLA) conducting the stirring theme from The Big Country, music by Jerome Moross.
This month, the HEAR NOW Music Festival was supposed to be presenting its 10th anniversary season of informal concerts celebrating the music of Southern California composers in top-level performances. Since its founding in 2011 by artistic director and composer Hugh Levick and cellist Timothy Loo, HEAR NOW has introduced some 150 new and recent works by more than 100 local composers. Now the Festival is sprouting online. Concerts from recent seasons are posted on HEAR NOW’s website, with several new chamber performances to be added beginning April 30th. Here’s a preview: Road Music by John Adams, performed by two standouts on the LA contemporary music scene, violinist Alyssa Park and pianist Vicki Ray.
Jeremy Geffen, the Executive and Artistic Director of Cal Performances has announced their upcoming season (with an assist from our own Rik Malone). It’s the first season that Geffen has programmed, and beyond the stellar roster of artists and ensembles on the schedule, there are two season themes that bring issues to audiences, working with the academic resources of UC Berkeley.
“Illuminations” focuses on music and the mind, partnering with the Berkeley Brain Initiative, members of UC Berkeley faculty in Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology, as well as Berkeley Public Health and Weill Neurohub at UCSF. Geffen describes it as exploring the “transformative power of music and its therapeutic potential…we are poised to explore these conversations in a way that no other campus is.” Among the performances in the series are the Tetzlaff Quartet playing Beethoven’s Late String Quartets, and Mark Morris Dance Group, which has a long-running program offering dance classes for people with Parkinson’s’ Disease. The other theme is “Fact or Fiction” which looks at “how both artists and scholars balance story-telling and poetic license with questions of historical accuracy.” Works in that program include Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and The English Concert’s Tamerlano by Handel. They’re starting a multi-season partnership with the English Concert, presenting concert performances of Handel operas and oratorios.
The downtown Los Angeles-based Colburn School is renowned for its wide-ranging music and dance classes for all ages, from beginners to young professionals. It accomplishes this feat through a unique structure: there are basically four divisions: the Community School (offering classes and ensemble participation for every level of ability); the Music Academy and Dance Academy, providing pre-college training; and the Colburn Conservatory, a prestigious undergraduate and graduate training program. Alums include members of major orchestras throughout the world, including the LA Phil, and renowned ensembles including the Calidore String Quartet, featured in this newly released video of music by Beethoven. The Calidore String Quartet was founded in 2010 at the Colburn School. Within two years, the ensemble picked up grand prizes in virtually all the major US chamber music competitions. More Beethoven from the Calidore Quartet is on the way; they’ll be part of Colburn’s Virtual Beethoven Festival, a week-long celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.
Salastina’s debut concert at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall | Photo courtesy of Salastina
If the notion of a classical happy hour sounds refreshing, step into the virtual watering hole just opened by Salastina, one of Southern California’s friendliest and most creative chamber ensembles. In addition to free live performances and conversations with top LA musicians, there are bar games! For the April 28 event, you’re invited to compete “for fame and glory” in an interactive classical version of the board game Clue. The musicians will play a little-known piece of music—even they aren’t told what it is! Your job is to figure out who wrote it. No need to feel shy; you’ll be working in a Zoom team, headed by a member of Salastina. Salastina happy hours are presented Tuesdays at 6pm. Learn more and RSVP on their website. Salastina was founded by prominent LA violinists Kevin Kumar and Maia Jasper White. Hear them in a luminous performance of the slow movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, with clarinetist Håkan Rosengren on the ensemble’s YouTube channel, where you’ll also find videos of music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Reena Esmail, Antonio Vivaldi, and Christopher Tin.
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players has announced its upcoming 50th season. It will include the world premiere of a commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, for an instrumental quartet of players from SFCMP and vocalist Pamela Z, on the subject of Bay Area poetry. That opening concert in October is also scheduled to include the John Adams piece called Son of Chamber Symphony. In December, they’ll be collecting sounds for a “community driven time capsule” to celebrate their milestone anniversary. Later in the season, there’s another commissioned piece from composer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, inspired by the life of the late composer Olly Wilson, who taught at UC Berkeley for decades, and frequently collaborated with the Contemporary Players.
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presented their March 2020 concert without an audience, but released this video of violist Phyllis Kamrin and pianist Allegra Chapman playing music of Robert Schumann. It’s his Märchenbilder, or Fairytale Pictures, Op. 113.
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has made available a full performance recorded live in concert of Handel’s oratorio, Saul. Nicholas McGegan led the orchestra and chorale a year ago at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. The story follows the fortunes of Saul, first King of Israel, and as the program notes put it: “There are few Biblical characters more sharply drawn than Saul, the unsuspecting first king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah, a loving pater familias at times and a fratricidal maniac at others. The Book of First Samuel becomes a page-turner from the moment Saul is introduced as “the handsomest man in Israel, standing head and shoulders above the rest” to his ignominious death in battle, a failed suicide finished off by an enemy soldier. The story of the rise and fall of Saul is fraught with drama: violence, madness, mayhem, and sorcery as well as jealousy, love, and the most undeniable description of bisexual devotion to be found in the Hebrew Bible.”
One of the most popular classical events of the year on the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic has announced the cancellation of its 50th anniversary season. The good news: dates are already in place for 2021: July 17-31. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a wealth of recorded live performances on video. The festival began life in the early 1970s as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, and the classical repertoire is still central to its mission. The treasure trove of videos includes Schubert’s String Quintet in C, featuring Festival Music Director Scott Yoo on first violin. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous (though still fabulous), there’s the Sonata for Double Bass and iTunes User Agreement (that is not a typo). It was composed by the artists who perform it here, and with impressive conviction–bass player Susan Cahill and actor Jon Wilkerson.
Festival Mozaic Music Director Scott Yoo, by the way, has some interesting day jobs. He’s Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, a renowned solo violinist, and he serves as host and executive producer of the delightful PBS program Now Hear This, apparently the first series about classical music on prime-time American television in 50 years. You can now watch the first episode.
Classical Revolution, a group of like-minded musicians that began with impromptu concerts at the Revolution Cafe in the Mission, is hosting its fifth ‘Livestream Music Festival’ this Saturday through its Facebook page. It’s scheduled to start at noon Pacific, running through 8pm. There are performers from the offshoot chapters of Classical Revolution in cities around the country and world, with many local performances from San Francisco and Oakland including trumpet player Aaron Priskorn; cellists ‘Cello Joe’, Joshua McClain, Rushad Eggleston and Bridget Pasker; violinist Jeremy Cohen; violist Christina Jarvis Simpson; pianists Kevin Navalrro and Ken Iisaka. More details of the anticipated schedule are available at the website and Facebook page as we get closer to the event.
Donato Cabrera, music director of the California Symphony has announced their 2020-21 season virtually, with a livestream on Facebook.
He walked through the programming of the five concerts, and spoke about the season with guest soloists, as well as their recently announced Young American Composer in Residence. The first concert, at the end of September is called “Emperor,” looking at how Beethoven became Beethoven. It opens with an overture by one of the rare successful women composers of the classical era, Marianna Martines, who was friends with Haydn, who would later teach Beethoven. There’s also a Haydn symphony, and the Emperor Concerto, with soloist Adam Golka. In November, cellist Joshua Roman will return to the Lesher Center, to play the concerto that (former composer-in-residence) Mason Bates wrote for him, on a program called “Firebirds of a Feather.” It also includes bird-inspired works by Respighi, Stravinsky, and Péter Eötvös. January’s “Hidden Treasures” program features works by Schumann and Vaughan Williams, plus a violin concerto by 20thCentury African-American composer Florence Price. The soloist will be DeAnn Letourneau, who is the concertmaster for Donato Cabrera’s other orchestra, the Las Vegas Philharmonic. In March, the strings have the concert off for “Symphonic Serenade,” with works for winds and brass by Mozart, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. And they’ll finish the season with “Triumph of the Spirit,” with the world premiere of the first work written for them by Viet Cuong, their newly announced Young American Composer in Residence. It’s paired with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, and the Violin Concerto of Jennifer Higdon, with California Symphony concertmaster Jennifer Cho as the soloist.
Over the next several weeks, San Francisco Symphony is releasing its Keeping Score series of programs for free on its YouTube channel. They’re nine deep dives into the history and stories behind masterworks of great composers, hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas, followed by full performances by the Symphony. They begin with Copland, Ives, and Shostakovich, and continue with Mahler, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. The series gives context for the works, and how the lives of the composers led them to write the Eroica, Rite of Spring, or Symphonie Fantastique.
In honor of Earth Day, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) present a virtual world premiere: Frank Ticheli’s Earth Song, in a new version for male chorus. Members of GMCLA individually recorded their parts for this digital compilation, led by GMCLA Music Director Ernest H. Harrison; the inaugural performance was originally scheduled for earlier this month. The arrangement was created expressly for GMCLA by Ticheli, a prolific American composer known especially for his band works. He’s been a faculty member at the USC Thornton School of Music since 1991. Ticheli provided his own text, which proclaims that even during dark times… “music and singing have been my refuge. And music and singing shall be my light…”
The Alexander String Quartet has taken on the challenge of practicing and playing remotely with a moving performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ. They created it for San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral’s celebration of Easter Week, with engineer and producer Matt Carr blending the four discrete performances into one whole, without the use of a click track. Baruch College in New York is releasing a longer version of the concert, with the movements interwoven with readings by the members of the quartet. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral selected them, from sources both religious and secular, “spanning many centuries – all meditations on the subject of human suffering, redemption and renewal.” That performance, released Wednesday at 4:30 Pacific, will be accessible for free through May 6th. The ASQ recently announced that founding violist, Paul Yarbrough, will be retiring mid-May, and succeeded by David Samuel.
Principal Percussionist Jacob Nissly of the San Francisco Symphony has made an adorable #MusicConnects video. He manages to convince his son that, despite a request for “No more Bach,” a little sample of a solo cello prelude played on his marimba is actually just the thing to raise spirits. (That, plus a finger-tickling trill to finish!)
There’s a treasure trove of Michael Tilson Thomas leading one of his other ensembles, the New World Symphony, in performances, and discussions with performers about the music at NWS Archive+. The repertoire so far includes Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”; Stravinsky’s The Firebird; selections from Romeo and Juliet by Hector Berlioz; and music by John Cage, from a 2013 festival that celebrated his centennial. In each case, the musical performances are preceded by a discussion led by MTT with performers, NWS alumni, and fellows. The first of the conversations took place just after it became clear that their season wasn’t going to continue, and that this would become a way of getting the music heard by as many people as possible. Eugene Izotov, Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Symphony, takes part in the discussion about The Firebird. He was a fellow with New World in 1994.
Starting Saturday, April 18th, Opera San Jose will be streaming its production of Mozart’s Idomeneo: ré di Creta from 2011 for free for a month. The ambitious production received rave reviews, and featured 73 singers (with a chorus of 41), 14 ballet dancers from Ballet San Jose, and was conducted by the late George Cleve, whose devotion to the composer led to the creation of the Midsummer Mozart Festival. Brad Dalton was the Stage Director, and Christopher Bengochea sings the title role, with Rebecca Davis as Ilia, and Aaron Blake as Idamante. The stream can be accessed at the Opera San Jose website.
Delirium Musicum, a recently formed chamber orchestra has recorded a remarkably engaging short video featuring musicians of the conductorless, Los Angeles-based ensemble. For the intricately produced video compilation—less than a minute in length—the socially distanced (across three continents!) musicians played in their living rooms, hotel rooms, and in parks, some of them in traditional costumes. The performance is of an old Italian tune traditionally sung by women to protest working conditions. (It’s also the main theme from Netflix show Money Heist/La Casa de Papel.) Ensemble director, violinist Etienne Gara, says the musical offering is intended to “invoke the power of music to bring us together across borders, and to spread a limitless message of resilience and hope”. Catch the performance here:
As live musical performances have taken a dramatic pause, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival is beginning a series of what they’re calling “Fermata Fridays.” Named for the bit of musical notation that means things are to be held longer than usual. Artistic Director Tanya Tomkins is in discussion (remotely) with performers, lecturers, and others who have been part of the festival. The conversations will be available through their YouTube channel. The first artist is fortepianist Christian De Luca, seen here in a 2019 appearance when they played Mendelssohn’s cello sonata.
Santa Barbara Symphony presents the next program in a new online series called Sundays with the Symphony, May 3 at 3:30pm. The 30-minute program, available only in this livestream, will feature music by prominent Santa Barbara composer Robin Frost. Sundays with the Symphony is curated and hosted by the Music Director of the Santa Barbara Sympohony, Nir Kabaretti. Tune in here.
Santa Barbara Symphony Conductor Nir Kabaretti | Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Symphony
Backhaus Dance (BD), one of Southern California’s premier modern dance companies, now invites you to steal away for a few minutes from those interminable Zoom meetings and get into the act! This Orange County-based troupe, which wowed a huge audience when they danced to classical music at KUSC’s inaugural Kids Discovery Day at the Bowers Museum in June, has started offering free online workshops in technique, dance improv and wellness, and they’ll be dropping new content weekly. Whether you’re working remotely, taking care of kids who are normally in school, or just need a break, let’s dance!
Backhaus Dance captivates the crowd at the 2019 KUSC Kids Discovery Day at the Bowers Museum | Photo by David G. Marks
The LA Phil has canceled the remainder of its concerts for the 2019/2020 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. But while we impatiently await the reopening of Disney Hall, you and your kids are invited to delve deeper into the music with a series of eight colorful, fun and printable activity books. Take a tour through Aaron Copland’s America, Ravel’s Bolero, or learn about the instruments of the orchestra. The books are printable.
Kronos Quartet has begun a series of videos called “Ask Kronos Anything” and the first installment ranges from what works of art and music the players are revisiting now, to wild guesses (and an actual answer) to the question of how far apart they are while staying in their respective homes. Violinist David Harrington explains that he doesn’t seek (or find) calm and serenity from music, even in untroubled times; rather, it gives him energy, it “activates” him. He’s using this time to explore books and music that he’s never gotten around to before. Violist Hank Dutt says he escapes reality with mysteries on TV, and is using his practice time as a form of meditation. “To really get into a scale, perfecting that, or intonation, or working on shifting… that whole process for me is a sense of losing myself in the moment, and that helps me gain a better perspective.”
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has launched SFGMC TV, as a way to showcase some of their performances and create a greater online community. They began with a virtual choir video they created, dedicated to emergency medical workers and first responders, called “Truly Brave.”
Angel City Chorale, a 180-voice multi-cultural choir based in Los Angeles, skyrocketed to fame in 2018 on America’s Got Talent, where they reached the semi-final round, stunning the judges with their thunderous (literally!) performance of Toto’s Africa, viewed over 15 million times. The choir, under founding artistic director and conductor Sue Fink, was forced to cancel its June concerts, but the singers are currently rehearsing from their homes an ambitious digital rendition of one of its signature tunes, Christopher Tin’s Sogno di Volare, composed for the video game Civilization VI. Here’s a glimpse of their recording session at Abbey Road Studios of the soaring work, which translates to “A Dream of Flight”.
San Francisco Performances has launched a series on its website called Front Row. This is the 40th anniversary season of San Francisco Performances, and when Mayor London Breed ordered people to stay home, SFP President Melanie Smith grabbed a handful of their archive recordings. “That night when I brought them home I marveled at the treasury of music I was holding, and that we had recorded for so many years, just as archives of those performances, with no intent to share or distribute at the time. Although these are audio-only recordings, I am sure that many of our patrons who attended these concerts will remember the night clearly once they hear the program again.” Performances in this Thursday-release series, which they keep archived on their website, include Trio Mediaeval, guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad, and pianist Marc-André Hamelin.
Pacific Symphony continues its series of Quarantine Clips, musical performances streamed from the living rooms and studios of the orchestra players. With this offering, first violinist Robert Schumitzky and his wife, cellist Erin Breene share a lovely arrangement for piano trio of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion. The socially distanced pianist is Ines Irawati.
Pacific Symphony is also sharing archival performances, including this performance from December 2019 (when musicians could still share a stage!) of the finale from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
If sheltering at home has put you in a contemplative mood, the LA-based Calder Quartet has you covered. They’ve just released their recent performance of one of the towering late works of Beethoven on both their YouTube channel and their Facebook page. Thomas May has written that the String Quartet Opus 131 “is an unprecedentedly original and ambitious work: arguably the zenith of Beethoven’s late quartets, which in themselves hold a privileged position at the core of the repertoire—for many, its holy grail.” Franz Schubert heard a private performance of Opus 131 the year after Beethoven’s death; it had never been played publicly. “After this,” said Schubert, “what is left for us to write?’”
Soprano Julia Bullock was one of the San Francisco Symphony’s artists-in-residence this season, and is also a member of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s team of Collaborative Partners, as they map out coming seasons and directions for the orchestra. She and her husband, conductor Christian Reif (who led the SFS Youth Orchestra from 2016-19), made this video of the beautiful song “One by One” by Connie Converse.
The Irving M. Klein International String Competition has announced its eight semi-finalists, and that instead of taking place at the San Francisco Conservatory, this year they’ll be “going virtual.” The California Music Center, which runs the competition, says this year’s 35th anniversary season on the first weekend of June will be on their YouTube channel. The semi-finalists this year include two cellists, a violist, and five violinists; they range in age from 18 to 21, from across the US, Canada, South Korea, and China. Cellist Davis You is from Palo Alto. The judges include USC’s Thornton School of Music faculty violist Karen Dreyfus and violinist Glenn Dicterow, and SFCM’s Ian Swensen. They’ll be conferring remotely and judging performance videos rather than in the concert hall, but audiences will be able to watch the eight semi-finalists as well. Winners are awarded prizes, as well as concert engagements. Past winners have included violinists Jennifer Koh and Tessa Lark, and cellist Zlatomir Fung. Here’s 2019 Competition winner, James Baik, playing in the finals last year:
The dancers of ODC have shared a video using the choreography of Grassland, a 2009 piece by KT Nelson, “inspired by nature and natural elements” that was to be part of Dance Downtown at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at the end of March. The dancers have taken it to their own homes and backyards (and even the deck of a boat), in a video that passes the movement, and “love, from one dancer to another.” The music is a commissioned score by Marcelo Zarvos.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic has launched a series of informal “At Home” mini-recitals by its musicians. Here, principal bass Christopher Hanulik and his wife harpist Maria Casale perform Adagio by Christian Gouinguené:
American Bach Soloists is offering ABS at HOME, a curated set of audio recordings they’ve released (with occasional guest appearances by other ensembles like VOCES8) on their Facebook and Twitter pages, which they’re updating daily, “until we can share concerts together again.” The emphasis, expectedly, is on Bach and Handel, Corelli and Gluck, in vocal, orchestral, and chamber combinations.
Piano Spheres, the innovative recital series founded in 1994 by eminent pianist and teacher Leonard Stein, is poised to launch a Throwback Thursday series of video highlights from the last 26 years of concerts on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Executive Director Heidi Lesemann is taking your musical requests! Here’s a memorable recent PianoSpheres concert highlight: Gloria Cheng, a founding member of the series, joining composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès in Ligeti’s Sonatine:
Stanford Live has assembled videos of performances, plus lectures and interviews in what they’re calling their 2020 Digital Season. It features some of the artists who have already come, and those who had been scheduled to come to the Bing Concert Hall and their other venues. There are some NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, including the Bay Area’s Vân Ánh Võ (Vanessa Vo), and a full concert performance of Max Richter’s Reimagining Vivaldi with Daniel Hope. Richter re-composed the Four Seasons, for electronics and a chamber orchestra, and they played it in concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. There are also performances from the Bang on a Can All Stars, long sets from Oysterhead, and Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi. They also have a link to the Cantor Arts Center’s Museums from Home offerings, with more lectures, interviews, and background materials in support of their exhibitions.
The Community Music Center’s website has a primer on Taking Lessons Online, which they suggest as a way of both continuing musical study while staying at home, as well as continuing to bring together members of their community. There are group classes that have pre-recorded materials that allow singers and players to practice, as well as one-on-one classes through Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Meet.
It’s not just for kids, either. For members of the Older Adult Choir, there are rehearsal videos to allow them to warm up, and run through songs with piano accompaniment. There’s information about enrolling in the CMC at their website.
Camerata Pacifica typically presents its subscription concerts in four locations: Los Angeles, Ventura, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara. Now they’re coming to perform even closer to you: your living room. Charismatic Artistic Director Adrian Spence is building a new weekly video series of chamber performances. Dvorak’s rarely performed Serenade for Winds will be the featured work this week. The videos can be seen at three different times on Sunday: 10 a.m. YouTube Live, 11.30 a.m. Facebook Live, 6 p.m. YouTube Live
Here’s a preview, a recent Camerata Pacifica performance of an early string trio by Beethoven:
The Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group was scheduled to present the West Coast premiere of LA-based composer Ted Hearne’s operatic work Place last week as part of its Power to the People! Festival at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Instead, Hearne is building a video performance of Place with the entire cast that was scheduled to perform it. They’ve dispatched their video tracks from their far-flung homes all over the U.S. Hearne, who is also a singer, bandleader, and faculty member of the USC Thornton School of Music, is known for the wide breadth of his musical influences. He has worked with artists as diverse as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, hip-hop/soul icon Erykah Badu, and the New York City Ballet. He says about Place: “The piece speaks uniquely to people’s disparate experiences during a time of sudden economic crisis. Meditations on displacement and long-standing cyclical patterns of gentrification and housing insecurity hit home in a new way.” Hearne’s inviting our listeners to get a sneak preview of Place here:
Chorus America has named the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco as the recipient of the 2020 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence. Led by founder and Artistic Director Susan McMane, YWCP offers six levels for young singers from the ages of 4-18 to learn and grow. In making the announcement, Chorus America’s President and CEO, Catherine Dehoney said: “Through their outstanding work, these award-winners are lifting the choral field to new heights of artistry and service. Chorus America is delighted to recognize these accomplishments, and hope they provide inspiration and encouragement during this time of crisis and in brighter days to come.” The award, which comes in YWCP’s eighth year, recognizes “artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, financial stability… and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.” The most advanced choir in the organization has performed with the San Francisco Symphony and Kronos Quartet, and Frederica von Stade, among many others. Here they are in concert this past December:
The Saint Lawrence String Quartet, which is in residence at Stanford, wants to help their would-be audiences get through all the current uncertainty with some of the great works for the genre. Along with Stanford Professor of Music, Stephen Hinton, they’re offering a free online music course (actually a couple, but this one has just begun) that you can take at your own pace, called Defining the String Quartet: Haydn. If you’ve ever been curious about the history of string quartets, or would just like to find out more, and hear musical examples played by the SLSQ, now is the time. And Haydn is a great place to start. In his works, he wrote the book on what to expect when two violins, a viola, and cello play together. And if you’re more interested in just hearing his music on its own, the quartet has made their recent recording of Haydn’s complete Opus 20 available to stream for free on their Bandcamp page.
Vox Femina, the Culver City-based women’s choir founded in January 1997, this week inaugurates #Throwback Thursday, a series of video performances bringing the joy of choral music into homes rather than concert halls. They’re posting recent performances, including this rare gem: Venetian baroque composer Baldassare Galuppi’s Dixit Dominus.
The early music ensemble Voices of Music has just posted on YouTube an hour-long 4K high definition concert video of their program Leonardo da Vinci: A Musical Odyssey. Although in addition to his other gifts, he was known to be a musician and composer, none of the music he wrote has been found. Instead, this program includes works that he might have heard in the cities in which he lived, in both Italy and France. The journey is narrated by poet Lawrence Rosenwald, and includes music from the Medici and Sforza courts, as well as chansons from France, where he lived at the end of his life. The Voices of Music program was recorded in 2018, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 1519.
Violinist Daniel Hope has launched [email protected] – New Century Chamber Orchestra music director’s contribution to the virtual concert world, which he is streaming daily, with pianist Max Raabe. You can find out more here, with details and links to the live stream in the description.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a 2.5 million dollar plan to help artists and cultural organizations that have been left with canceled concerts and performances because of the COVID-19. Grants and low-interest loans will be directed toward some of the hardest hit individuals and organizations. Mayor Breed said: “Our artists and cultural institutions are at the heart of who we are as a City and a community. This community is also getting hit hard right now as people are suffering from job loss, business closures, and economic disruption during the COVID-19 outbreak. We need to do everything we can to stabilize our arts community now. I hope our public investment will encourage private donors to join us in supporting our vulnerable artists during this challenging time.”
Pasadena-based MUSE/IQUE, under Artistic Director and Conductor Rachel Worby, has raised the digital curtain on a series called MUSE/IQUE In A Minute! (…Or Two). Performances by musicians who appear regularly on MUSE/IQUE’s programs are featured in videos distributed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:30pm on MUSE/IQUE’s YouTube channel and on Instagram.
California Symphony had to postpone the world premiere of the final work by its Young American Composer in Residence, Katherine Balch, but while the orchestra is unable to play, Music Director Donato Cabrera is blogging about his favorite recordings and performances under the umbrella title “The Music Plays On.” He includes links to the music, frequently with video, on YouTube, and pieces he’s covered so far include Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, Allegri’s Miserere, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Francesco Lecce-Chong, music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony has set up several “watch parties” from his Facebook page, with video introductions to the works, and comments and commentary along the way in real-time.
Berkeley Symphony’s Principal Second Violinist, Dan Flanagan, has recorded some solo Bach as part of his ‘Corona Quarantine Concerts’ (in the company of some artworks by impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, and his descendants).
Check back for daily updates! If there’s anything you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.