The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What will the fall concert season will look like? And what will the post-pandemic concert world be like?

May 18, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

This past week, The Ear listened to and read a lot of news about COVID-19 and the arts.

And it got him thinking: What will happen this fall with the new concert season? And even later, what will a post-pandemic concert world look like? (Below is the Madison Symphony Orchestra in a photo by Peter Rodgers.)

As you may have heard, the Tanglewood Festival, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has been canceled this year. So too has the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Locally, American Players Theatre in Spring Green also just canceled its summer season.

So far, the summer season seems to be one big cancellation for the performing arts.

True, there are some exceptions.

The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has yet to announce its plans for August.

One also has to wonder if crowds of up to 20,000 will feel safe enough to attend the Concerts on the Square (below), now postponed until late July and August, by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra?

Will people still want to attend the postponed Handel Aria Competition on Aug. 21 in Collins Recital Hall at the UW-Madison’s new Hamel Music Center, assuming the hall is open?

Fall events seem increasingly in question.

Last night on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that sports events and concerts will be among the last mass gatherings to take place safely, probably not until next spring or summer or even later, depending on when a vaccine becomes available.

Some public health experts also offer dire predictions about how easing up lockdown restrictions too soon might lead to an even worse second wave of the coronavirus virus pandemic this autumn and winter, despite all the happy talk and blame-shifting by Team Trump.

So, what do you think will happen beyond summer?

The Ear wonders what the fallout will be from so many music groups and opera companies turning to free online performances by solo artists, symphony orchestras and chamber music ensembles.

Will season-opening concerts be canceled or postponed? What should they be? Will you go if they are held?

Will at-home listening and viewing become more popular than before?

Will the advances that were made in using streaming and online technology (below) during the lockdown be incorporated by local groups — the UW-Madison especially comes to mind — or expected by audiences?

In short, what will concert life be like post-pandemic and especially until a vaccine is widely available and a large part of the population feels safe, especially the older at-risk audiences that attend classical music events?

Will larger groups such as symphony orchestras follow the example of the downsized Berlin Philharmonic (below, in a photo from a review by The New York Times) and play to an empty hall with a much smaller group of players, and then stream it?

Will some free streaming sites move to requiring payment as they become more popular?

Live concerts will always remain special. But will subscriptions sales decline because audiences have become more used to free online performances at home?

Will most fall concerts be canceled? Both on stage and in the audience, it seems pretty hard to maintain social distancing (below is a full concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra). Does that mean the health of both performers – especially orchestras and choral groups – and audiences will be put in jeopardy? Will the threat of illness keep audiences away?

Even when it becomes safe to attend mass gatherings, will ticket prices fall to lure back listeners?

Will programs feature more familiar and reassuring repertoire to potential audiences who have gone for months without attending live concerts?

Will expenses be kept down and budgets cut so that less money is lost in case of cancellation? Will chamber music be more popular? (Below is the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet during its suspended Beethoven cycle.)

Will fewer players be used to hold down labor costs?

Will imported and expensive guest artists be booked less frequently so that cancellations are less complicated to do? 

Will many guest artists, like much of the public, refrain from flying until it is safer and more flights are available? Will they back out of concerts?

Will all these changes leave more concert programs to be canceled or at least changed?

There are so many possibilities.

Maybe you can think of more.

And maybe you have answers, preferences or at least intuitions about some the questions asked above?

What do you think will happen during the fall and after the pandemic?

What do you intend to do?

Please leave word, with any pertinent music or news link, in the comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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Classical music: Local groups stream videos to entertain home-bound listeners, and perhaps to promote their next seasons. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra cancels and postpones its May concerts

April 4, 2020
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PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

Cancellations and postponements aren’t the only effects that the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic are having on the local classical music scene.

Many local ensembles – much like such national and international organizations as the Metropolitan Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra — are also starting to offer free streamed performances, some of them archival and some of them are specially performed.

Bach Around the Clock even held a virtual festival this year that featured many different original recorded performances spread out over many days and continues.

Why are they doing so?

Certainly to help entertain the public while they weather the boredom and loneliness of social distancing and sheltering in place at home. Music can comfort.

Perhaps they are also doing so as a smart marketing move to stay in the public’s consciousness despite cancellations and to indirectly promote their upcoming seasons.

Here are some examples:

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is offering a link to a YouTube performance — by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra below) — of the Dvorak Requiem, which the MSO orchestra and chorus were supposed to perform this weekend but had to cancel.

The video also has a message from music director John DeMain; texts and translations from the Czech; a special pre-concert talk and program notes for the Requiem by J. Michael Allsen; and a link to the MSO’s 2020-21 season.

Here is a link: https://madisonsymphony.org/experience-dvorak-requiem-virtually/

In other MSO news: The concerts with pianist Yefim Bronfman playing the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Brahms on May 1, 2 and 3 and the open rehearsal on April 30 are now canceled, and the May 5 organ performance has been postponed.

For those who hold tickets for May concerts, the MSO will be announcing options for donation, exchange and refunds sometime this weekend or next week.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO), which recently streamed its December concert in the UW’s Hamel Center, has started a special “Coucherto” series – it’s a pun on concerto and couch – of special at-home concerts by individual musicians in the WCO for those listeners who are staying at home.

The project uses social media including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Vimeo and at the WCO’s home website. Also included is an invitation by music director Andrew Sewell.

The WCO’s next season hasn’t been announced yet, but should be soon.

Here is a link: https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/about/coucherto/

For its part, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which is facing uncertainty about its June concert series, which focuses on Beethoven’s piano trios – is offering selected chamber music performances from its past seasons that are on BDDS’ YouTube channel.

It too has comments and the program lineup for its season this summer.

Here is a link: https://bachdancing.org/watch-listen/video/

Have you seen any of these videos?

What do you think of them?

Dp you think they work as marketing strategies?

Have you discovered sites for streaming classical music that you recommend to others?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music
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Classical music: This Wednesday night, warm up to Spring with the Middleton Community Orchestra, which will perform music by Mozart, Brahms and Rimsky-Korsakov with guest violin and viola soloists and a guest conductor, who are all distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

February 23, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Is that an early Spring The Ear hears coming to Middleton, Wisconsin?

The very appealing and very accessible all-masterpiece Winter Concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) is this Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

Tickets are $10 and are available at the door and at the Willy St. Coop West. Students are free. You can get tickets at the door on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m,; doors open at 7 p.m. 

The concert  — which is guaranteed to increase your respect for and love of amateur music-making —  features three professional guest artists: guest conductor Kevin McMahon (below top), maestro of the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra; violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle); and violist Daniel Kim (below bottom). All three are distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they received various scholarships, and won awards, prizes and honors.

Kevin McMahon

Eleanor Bartsch

Daniel Kim 2014

The MCO program of “great classical hits” includes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fetchingly lovely and dramatic Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola; the high-spirited “Capriccio Espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; and the lyrical, pastoral-like Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms, which is often compared to Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous and popular Symphony No. 6, the famous “Pastoral Symphony. (You can check out the opening movement of the Brahms, as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom).

Plus, the atmosphere is casual and informal, and the seats are quite comfortable.

MIddleton Community Orchestra audience

Usually there is no intermission to the 90-minute or so MCO concert, but this time there WILL indeed be an intermission in the program, which runs Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Intermission and then Brahms. (I prefer no intermission. Once I get in The Zone, I like to stay there and not emerge and then try to re-enter it.) But there will be snacks, and time to meet and greet other audience members as well as the musicians.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

In some ways, The Ear thinks such a community orchestra and its concert practices provide a model that professional organizations ought to consider adopting if they want to attract newer, younger audiences and cut down on the ticket prices by reducing rehearsal costs and rentals fees.

If you still need some motivation here is a link of a review I did in 2012 of one of the MCO concerts. You can also find very positive review by guest blogger John W. Barker by using the search engine on this blog.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/classical-music-review-let-us-now-praise-amateur-music-makers-and-restoring-sociability-to-art-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-liked-and-you-should-attend-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

I asked MCO co-founder and orchestra player Mindy Taranto why the usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) was not conducting: “MCO enjoyed guest conductors maestros John DeMain (of the Madison Symphony Orchestra) and David Becker (from UW-Madison and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin) for one week readings last year, and we decided that it was a good artistic opportunity for the players to experience playing under different conductors,” she told The Ear.  “Kevin has been wonderful to work with and the orchestra has been very enthusiastic and inspired by his musical ideas and with the way he has engaged all of us during rehearsals for the last two months.  This will be a fantastic concert! The orchestra sounds very good!

Steve Kurr conducting

Sounds terrific. So, The Ear says let’s check it out.

And here is a link to the Middleton Community Orchestra’s website with more information about this and other upcoming concerts (the one on June 4, with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A Minor featuring soloist Thomas Kasdorf, sounds like a MUST-HEAR) as well as information about how to support it and even join it.

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org/home

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