Pittsburgh Symphony and Opera perform on mobile stage in new open-air series

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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra cellist Michael Lipman performs a sound check for an outdoor concert on September 13, 2020 at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s mobile stage in a parking lot. Photo by Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“In Pittsburgh, trumpets are sounding once more,” writes Jeremy Reynolds in Monday’s (9/14) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “After a six-month hiatus, members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera have returned to the stage—not at Heinz Hall or the Benedum Center, but at a new, mobile outdoor stage purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Sunday’s was the first installment of the ballet’s Open Air Series, with the stage planted in the parking lot of the company’s Strip District location. The evening kicked off with the Pittsburgh Cello Quartet, which comprises four of the symphony’s cellists, performing music by Saint-Saëns, Bach and Carlos Gardel…. The invitation-only event … drew a crowd of around 50…. Four members of the PSO’s brass section delivered a smattering of Renaissance music…. Pittsburgh Opera provided a pair of singers [performing arias]…. There have been ad hoc performances in various parks in neighborhoods around the city…. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Open Air Series represents one possible avenue; drive-in theaters, like City Theatre’s new outdoor space at Hazelwood Green, are another. Members of the PSO also performed at Hazelwood Green on Sunday and will do so again Wednesday evening.”

September 15, 2020

Annapolis Symphony adds a streaming platform for fall concerts at Strathmore, to begin Sept. 26

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“The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra has been … working on a streaming platform for people to enjoy music at home,” writes Donovan Conaway in Sunday’s (9/13) Capital Gazette (Annapolis, MD). “Symphony+ streaming service is the name of the platform and they’ve bundled six pre-concert talks, six live concerts and the ability to replay everything into a virtual subscription package. The price point is at $99 per household. ASO Executive Director Edgar Herrera spent three months researching the best platform to launch this program. Herrera hasn’t been to Annapolis yet, he was appointed as director during the pandemic on May 1 while he was in Mexico, which has a travel ban…. Concerts through December … involve only string, percussion, keyboard and harp…. They also are doing virtual performances at Strathmore in Bethesda [to utilize its] larger stage for musician spacing and multi-camera capabilities … The first show will be Sept. 26…. ‘The music will be the same but the experience will be different,” Music Director José-Luis Novo said…. Herrera is planning to add more than just concerts to the platform, like master classes and classes for youth. They plan to continue using this platform beyond the pandemic.”

September 15, 2020

Rockford Symphony heads to the park for first performances since March

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“The Rockford Symphony Orchestra returns and plays its first concert since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the Sinnissippi Music Shell” in Rockford, Illinois on September 12 and 13, reports Brandon Geese on Sunday (9/13) at WIFR TV (Rockford, IL). “With half of its normal crew, the orchestra plays its first musical set in months to a socially distant crowd, but many say it’s worth it to safely soak in the sounds of the symphony. ‘We’ve had people messaging us that “I’ve been in a dark place but I just want you to know that the performance last night lifted me up and that you matter, you really matter,” ’ says Marketing Director for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra Michele McAfee…. ‘I love the music, I love the musicians, I love the performance, the whole vibe,’ says Rockford Symphony fan Arnold Rosen. ‘To go cold turkey and to remain deficient in that regard for so long is painful …’ Says Principal Cellist Mike Beert, ‘Just playing out in front of our friends is a real joy.’… The Rockford Symphony Orchestra does not have another scheduled performance in 2020, but you can see them at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, January 16, 2021.”

September 15, 2020

What it took for the LA Phil to produce its filmed concerts, which begin streaming this fall

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“The Hollywood Bowl summer season has been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean its behemoth stage (5,700 square feet) sits empty,” writes Susan Elliott in Thursday’s (9/10) MusicalAmerica. In a video interview with Elliott, “Chad Smith, CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which operates the Bowl, describes the logistics behind the Phil’s upcoming ‘Sound/Stage’ series. Filmed at the Bowl over a number of weeks in July and August, the performances start streaming September 25, most of them conducted by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. Players were masked and positioned between six and 12 feet apart, with the winds encased in multiple layers of plexiglass. For musicians used to taking finely honed aural cues from each other, it was a huge challenge. Smith describes how, to surmount it, Dudamel told his charges, ‘Listen less, watch me more!’ ”

September 15, 2020

Alex Ross on his new book, “Wagnerism,” and the composer’s multiple influences

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“Richard Wagner had an enormous influence not only on modern music but on artists of all stripes, and on political culture as well,” reports Ngofeen Mputubwele on Friday (9/11) at radio station WNYC. “His use of folkloric material to create modern epics won him the admiration of thinkers like W. E. B. Du Bois, and made him popular in Hollywood since the birth of film. Alex Ross, whose new book is called ‘Wagnerism,’ tells David Remnick [in an audio segment] that Du Bois ‘might have seen “Black Panther” as a kind of Wagnerian project.’ And yet Wagner’s music was used to heroically represent the Ku Klux Klan in ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ In fact, the composer’s strident anti-Semitism fed into the rise of Nazism in Germany. The many aspects of Wagner’s influence were often contradictory. ‘So much baggage arrives with him,’ Ross says, but ‘we aren’t necessarily imprisoned by what the man himself thought.’ The composer himself … ‘becomes a mirror for what other people are thinking and feeling. And we have that right, we have that power with art. If there’s something about it we reject, we can—without forgetting or overlooking that darker aspect—remake it in our own image.’ ”

September 15, 2020

With new rapid Covid-19 test, London Symphony anticipates return to live performance

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“DnaNudge, developer of the new rapid, lab-free CovidNudge test, has announced a partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra, delivering regular COVID-19 testing to its 120 musicians, which will enable the ensemble to make a return to live performance,” reads an unsigned article in Monday’s (9/14) The Strad (U.K.). “DnaNudge is performing the testing—which delivers results in just over an hour—exclusively for the LSO … to help support the UK arts and cultural sector’s safe re-opening…. The orchestra completed CovidNudge testing prior to beginning its first group rehearsal sessions at LSO St Luke’s, held in preparation for the LSO’s 2020 BBC Prom concert broadcast live on 30 August 2020. Regular testing will continue for the rest of the year…. … The CovidNudge RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test … delivers accurate results in just over an hour, without the need for a laboratory, via both nasal and saliva swab samples. DnaNudge began an initial deployment of the CovidNudge test in eight London hospitals…. The test is now being rolled out UK-wide by the Department of Health and Social Care in NHS urgent patient care and elective surgery settings, plus out-of-hospital locations.”

September 15, 2020

Anthony McGill awarded 2020 Avery Fisher Prize

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Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, has been awarded the 2020 Avery Fisher Prize. In place of the traditional award celebration at Lincoln Center, a virtual ceremony will be publicly streamed on Tuesday, September 15, at 6 p.m. ET at LincolnCenter.org/2020AveryFisherPrize. McGill receives a monetary award of $100,000, and the Avery Fisher Artist Program is making an additional $30,000 available for donation to a charitable organization of McGill’s choice. McGill has designated the Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, with funds earmarked for summer scholarships. The contribution is in response to the impact of the pandemic on the performing arts and in support of the struggle for justice and decency in our society. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, McGill previously served as principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera and associate principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, and Bard College Conservatory of Music. He also serves as artistic director for the Music Advancement Program at Juilliard and on the Board of Directors for both the League of American Orchestras and the Harmony Program.

September 15, 2020

League appoints Marlah Bonner-McDuffie as Vice President, Development

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MARLAH BONNER-McDUFFIE has been appointed vice president of development at the League of American Orchestras. Bonner-McDuffie will serve as the League’s lead fundraiser, shape the strategies for individual giving, build relationships with major institutional funders, manage the fundraising staff, and partner with the Board of Directors’ Development Committee chair to secure Board engagement. A fundraising professional with a demonstrated track record of securing principal and major gifts at a wide range of organizations, Bonner-McDuffie has extensive experience leading philanthropy, strategic planning, marketing, and business development in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She most recently served as senior director of external affairs for the Philadelphia School Partnership, supporting its mission of improving outcomes and access for underserved K-12 students in Philadelphia. Prior to PSP, Bonner-McDuffie was associate dean of Advancement for the College of Media for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bonner-McDuffie also served in fundraising and leadership roles at the University of Illinois and the University of Delaware. She previously worked in the corporate sector in the consumer brands and pharmaceutical industries, and founded a consulting firm specializing in marketing, brand management, public relations, research, event management, and donor relations. Bonner-McDuffie received a B.S. in business administration from Pennsylvania State University’s Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration and an M.B.A. from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management.

September 15, 2020