Western Massachusetts economy, reliant on tourism, Tanglewood, and the arts, struggles during coronavirus closures
“Tourism has been decimated by widespread coronavirus closures … especially … in regions that rely heavily on seasonal dollars, including the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts,” writes Andrea Shea on Tuesday (6/30) at Boston radio station WBUR. “It’s a place where art, theater and music drive a post-industrial, creative economy now shuttered by the pandemic…. During a normal summer 350,000 visitors stream through the gates at the Tanglewood Music Festival [where] for decades the BSO musicians have performed.… ‘The last time Tanglewood missed a whole summer was precipitated by gas and rubber rationing in 1945,’ the orchestra’s CEO and president Mark Volpe explained…. Over the decades the Berkshires region has redefined itself as a cultural destination…. There’s the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival, Shakespeare & Company and a slew of museums including the Clark Art Institute, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art … Unemployment in Berkshire Country … in May … reached 28%…. Phased reopening is underway in Massachusetts.” Eric Kerns, a partner in the North Adams-based Tourists hotel, said, “We feel a responsibility to the community as an economic engine. But we also feel an incredible obligation to be protective of this community that has spectacularly low infection rates.”
July 1, 2020
New Haven Symphony cancels fall 2020 live concerts; will continue to expand online presence
“The New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Directors announced that the programming and concerts originally planned for the remainder of 2020 are not compatible with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and that the NHSO will not perform as a full orchestra until after December 31, 2020,” reads an unsigned article in Tuesday’s (6/30) New Haven Register (CT). “Music Director Alasdair Neale noted in a news release, … ‘Instead we will be presenting alternative (online) programs that we believe will best serve our community during this time.’ … NHSO CEO Elaine C. Carroll added that the situation calls for innovation: ‘The decision is a sad one, but the most reasonable way forward.’ … Having pivoted to virtual material like so many others, the orchestra has seen growth in its online presence [at] the symphony’s website and social media for watch parties and online concerts…. Online highlights include ‘Christmas in July’ all month on NewHavenSymphony.org, with an activity center for families and kids … a sing-along, recipes and an interview with Santa; and ‘HomeCooked Music Festival’ in August, a series of virtual concerts by NHSO musicians, community members and students that will raise money and awareness for food insecurity nonprofits in New Haven.”
July 1, 2020
National Virtual Medical Orchestra records its first video
“As the novel coronavirus pandemic left many Americans confined to their homes and the medical community under extreme stress, Providence Medical Orchestra conductor John Masko began searching for opportunities,” writes Katie Mulvaney in Sunday’s (6/28) Providence Journal (R.I.). “Masko began contacting the directors of some 18 medical orchestras nationwide with the idea of putting together a virtual ensemble. He had soon compiled a list of doctors, nurses, first-responders and medical students interested in the concept. They were in Texas, Los Angeles, Virginia, Indiana, Detroit, New York, Boston, Providence and other locations. ‘The response was pretty amazing,’ … said Masko…. And with that was born the National Virtual Medical Orchestra, a 50-musician group led by Masko. It released its first video performance Wednesday … the second movement of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony…. Each [musician] sent in their final recording, often made on a cellphone or laptop. A producer, in turn, melded the 50 recordings together…. While [Masko] was studying history and music at Yale University … he began conducting the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra…. In 2018 [he] began the Providence Medical Orchestra. Masko already has the next piece mapped out for the National Virtual Orchestra: the Brahms Academic Festival Overture.”
July 1, 2020
Indianapolis Symphony musicians and management at odds over health coverage during furlough
“Furloughed musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra say management … terminated employer-provided health insurance for the musicians when a current furlough began June 7,” writes David Lindquist in Monday’s (6/29) Indianapolis Star. “James Johnson, the orchestra’s CEO, said the musicians … chose to accept an earlier series of cash payments rather than coverage…. ‘It was not our intention, by any means, to deprive our musicians of health insurance during this time,’ Johnson said…. ISO staff members and stagehands are receiving health insurance coverage while being furloughed, and Johnson said the musicians could have been in the same situation…. ‘At no point did the ISO make any proposal to our representatives that included an offer to maintain health insurance coverage for the musicians after June 7,’ said Brian Smith, a double bass player and chair of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Committee…. Johnson said he wants ‘to begin discussions with the musicians very soon.’ … A two-week furlough began March 27 and ended when the orchestra received a Paycheck Protection Program loan…. The current furlough is open-ended.… In April [there were] layoffs of nearly half of the administrative staff.” The current musicians contract is set to expire on September 6; the orchestra’s first planned concert of the new season is September 18.
July 1, 2020
Message of hope: Gateways Music Festival musicians record “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
“For 27 years, Gateways Music Festival’s mission has been to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent and enlighten and inspire communities through the power of performance,” reads an unsigned Thursday (6/25) article at New York classical radio station WQXR. “Through a series of more than 50 orchestra and chamber music concerts in Rochester, NY, Gateways creates a space where black musicians are heard, affirmed, and celebrated. WQXR and the classical music world broadly have a long way to go to reach true equity and inclusion for all people of color. But Black musicians have been engaged in classical music since before Beethoven composed his first piece. Classical music is not white—period. And at WQXR we want to hear classical music that is from and for all people in all its richness and diversity of tone and color. This special performance of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was recorded by members of the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra from their homes and put together by WQXR to send a message of hope and unity to communities throughout the world.”
July 1, 2020
In a time of upheaval, musicians and composers respond
“On May 27th, two days after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, posted a recording of himself playing ‘America the Beautiful,’ ” writes Alex Ross in the July 6 and 13 issue of The New Yorker. “Then he goes down on both knees, his clarinet behind his back, as if shackled, and bends his head. The video, titled ‘TakeTwoKnees,’ lasts about ninety seconds, but it has the weight of a symphonic statement. McGill later recounted that he had been searching for some way to respond to Floyd’s killing…. It has inspired a torrent of responses from other musicians…. African-Americans are severely underrepresented in classical music, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the frequency with which people of color are now featured in promotional brochures. Online discussions in the wake of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests have made clear how uncomfortable the role of a black classical musician can be…. Classical music, which is to say white classical music, has a problem.” The article also discusses new compositions that respond to the pandemic. “The strangeness of this moment lies in how it has pulled people both toward an extreme inwardness and toward an outward explosion of feeling.”
July 1, 2020
Fort Collins Symphony to perform July 4 concert at drive-in theater
Colorado’s Fort Collins Symphony will perform on stage for the first time since the pandemic began with a July 4 concert of patriotic music at Holiday Twin Drive-In movie theater in Fort Collins. Normally, the orchestra performs its free Independence Day concert in City Park before an audience of thousands. Music Director Wes Kenney will conduct this year’s concert, which will feature 44 musicians performing a 90-minute program that will include “Stars and Stripes,” “The Armed Forces Salute,” and “America the Beautiful”; John Williams’s “The People’s House” from the movie Lincoln and “Superman March” from Superman; and music from Bernstein’s West Side Story. The orchestra will perform two works by contemporary American composers of color: The Star Spangled Banner arranged in the Key of G by Fort Collins-based Ethan Boxley and Voices Shouting Out by Nkeiru Okoye. The evening will also include simulated fireworks and a screening of Ghostbusters.
July 1, 2020
The Hub: back on Monday, July 6
The League of American Orchestras will be closed in observance of Independence Day on Thursday, July 2 and Friday, July 3—and The Hub will be, too. The Hub will be back on Monday, July 6. See you then!
July 1, 2020