In the first rehearsal for BSONOW, former BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur led a dutifully distanced* 59-player contingent this morning in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World on a stage doubled in size by a 35-foot extension. The resulting first installment of the new streaming initiative will debut on November 19th under the rubric Music in Changing Times. Meanwhile enjoy a two-minute preview HERE.
BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will return to Boston in the new year to record an episode that will focus on Beethoven symphonies: “Sounds of Revolution: Beethoven and musical revolutionaries.”
In addition to subsequent electronic concerts by 13-59 BSO players, management will stream a Holiday Pops offering (video shot at Fenway park and Symphony Hall), celebrate artistic, community, and educational partnerships, offer special access programs for college students and essential workers, and feature magazine-style behind-the-scenes storytelling.
The complete series of newly recorded BSO and Holiday Pops online programming is available to donors of $100 through www.bso.org/give. All donations made by December 31st will be doubled by the Gross Family Challenge, up to $1 million. Click HERE on Thursdays at noon between November 19th and April 13th to consume the content.
The BSO Explores “American Promise” in the first three shows.
Thursday, November 19, at noon: Ken-David Masur leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, New World, and Ives’s The Unanswered Question; BSO musicians to be featured in chamber music performance of Florence Price’s String Quartet in G.
Thursday, November 26, at noon: Thomas Wilkins leads the BSO in Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, William Grant Still’s Out of the Silence, and Duke Ellington’s New World A-Comin’, both featuring piano soloist Aaron Diehl; Ellington’s Come Sunday, with Charlotte Blake Alston as narrator, and the fourth movement from Still’s Symphony No. 4; BSO musicians to be featured in chamber music performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s Lullaby and Doina.
Thursday, December 3, at noon: Giancarlo Guerrero leads Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Appalachian Spring on a program with Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1, and Barber’s Adagio for Strings; BSO musicians to be featured in chamber music performances.
Each of the BSO’s Music in Changing Times online videos will include magazine-style segments with musicians, composers, and conductors shedding light on the musical selections and themes associated with each program. BSO Artistic Administrator Tony Fogg is working on these segments with Bridget Carr, Blanche and George Jones Director of Archives and Digital Collections; Sue Elliott, Judith and Stewart Colton Tanglewood Learning Institute Director; Michael Nock, Associate Director of Tanglewood Music Center; Robert Kirzinger, Associate Director of Program Publications; and Eric Valliere, Assistant Artistic Administrator.
The BSO’s Music in Changing Times online offerings will also put a special focus on traditionally unheard and underrepresented voices in classical music. The first series, “American Promise” (released November 19 and 26, December 3) explores the emergence of distinctively American musical voices, from Charles Ives to composers of today. Ives’s innovative compositions symbolize the American spirit of independent thinking rooted in the New England Transcendentalists. His The Unanswered Question opens the BSO’s season in the spirit of speculation and striving for truth that underlies artistic endeavor. Drawing on Black spirituals learned from his assistant Harry Burleigh, Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony was an inspiration to later generations of American composers. Musical stories of struggle, belonging, and triumph resonate in works by such varied voices as those of Aaron Copland—whose Appalachian Spring illustrates life on the early American frontier—and Duke Ellington, the consummate narrator of Harlem’s vibrant streets and people. The richness of the American musical vernacular, from spirituals and hymn tunes to the blues, jazz, and rock music, continues to be, a creative and spiritual wellspring for composers of today, including the New York-born Jessie Montgomery and the Argentine-American Osvaldo Golijov.
In answer to BMInt’s question as to whether online efforts to reach the underserved were as effective as in-person initiatives, a spokesman told us the “BSO is having a very strong response to its online programming, including newcomers to the BSO from Boston and throughout the world, so we think it’s a very good time to do outreach focusing on traditionally underrepresented voices.”
FLE: Has any thought been given to streaming live rather than pre-recording?
BSO: At this point, live streaming is a much more expensive endeavor and not something the BSO is currently able to do with limited budgets due to lost revenue. But we remain open to considering all possible forms of online content creation as long as they are cost-effective in these challenging financial times for the orchestra.
Will the cameras all be remote-controlled?
Most of the cameras will be remote controlled, with some hand-held work being done by cameras placed further into the hall, with significant distance between the musicians and camera operators.
How many people will be in the Hall during the sessions?
The number of people in the hall during each of the recording sessions will depend on the number of musicians required for each work and the staff needed to implement any stage changes that need to be made between works to be recorded. There will also be a limited number of staff—those directly involved with the recording process and work for BSONOW content—who will be working from their offices at Symphony Hall, but the majority of the staff will continue working from home as they have done since March 16th.
Tthe BSO’s reopening strategy for its BSONOW online recording schedule at Symphony Hall will include a robust testing schedule, two layers of daily screenings, social distancing, universal masking, engineering controls, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Have any players, stagehands or admins gotten Covid-19? How often are people tested?
All players and staff working directly with players are being tested on regular basis in accordance with best practices. All musicians and staff who were tested this week, tested negative for COVID-19.
* Management gave the musicians the option to decline from participating in these recording sessions over any concern they might have around the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, concerns about their health and safety and the health and safety of their family members who might be health compromised. Those who are not participating in the recording sessions will be active participants in such activities as chamber music performances, education and community partnership programs, and development and fundraising activities.
Have any improvements been made to air handling to mitigate risk? Any other Covid safely changes worth mentioning?
The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s reopening plan for Symphony Hall recording sessions with no live audience utilizes a layered defense approach based on the best available science and is prepared by leading experts in the field of exposure and risk reduction in buildings. Working with the publication 9 Foundations for a Healthy Building, from the namesake company founded by Joseph Allen, Associate Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the orchestra is using a strategy grounded in what occupational health and safety experts call the “Hierarchy of Controls.” The BSO’s reopening plan contains the appropriate components of these controls, and includes a robust testing schedule, two layers of daily screening, social distancing, universal masking, engineering controls, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
How many people will be in the Hall during the sessions?
The number of people in the hall during each of the recording sessions will depend on the number of musicians required for each work and the staff needed to implement any stage changes that need to be made between works to be recorded. There will also be a limited number of staff—those directly involved with the recording process and work for BSONOW content—who will be working from their offices at Symphony Hall, but the majority of the staff will continue working from home as they have done since March 16.
How quickly could the Hall be reopened to the public if conditions warrant?
With the health and safety of everyone involved the highest priority, the BSO will continue to monitor updates from the Centers of Disease Control, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the City of Boston, as well as its own team of experts, to determine when it can gradually start inviting audiences back to Symphony Hall. The timing of this process and further details as to how that will happen will not be known for at least several months.
Do you know how many viewers will be watching on large screens rather than on phones, tablets or laptops?
Our sense from customer feedback is that 24% of viewers watched on a large-screen TV during the Tanglewood programming.
The final words come in a joint statement from BSO worthies:
“The BSO’s full-on commitment to its digital platform—with newly recorded video content of the BSO, Boston Pops, BSO Youth Concerts, and projects with our close community and education partners—is something we are thrilled to share with our wonderful patrons, donors, and ever-expanding music community in Boston, the Berkshires, and throughout the world, especially during this hiatus from live performance.
“With more than 13 million people across the globe interacting with the orchestra’s digital content over the last six months, the BSO is now moving beyond an immediate response to the pandemic and enthusiastically embracing the online content model as one that will continue to thrive alongside the orchestra’s live performance offerings, once the orchestra is back performing post-pandemic.
“As exciting and important as it is to share the BSO’s many online offerings with people who do not have access to the orchestra’s multi-faceted programs now or otherwise, we want to encourage everyone to come hear the music-making of our great ensembles resounding through Symphony Hall or spilling out from the Koussevitzky Music Shed onto the lawn at Tanglewood when live performances resume. As people so deeply committed to the transformational power of the live concert experience, we so look forward to being with our music community and taking in the experience of being inspired and transported by music, with its power to take us beyond our own personal troubles and the world’s many difficulties and remind us of the great gifts of our lives.
“We are grateful for the essential role our online and recorded content continues to play, side by side, as a complement to the live experience—a role that has become powerfully more meaningful during this time of performance hiatus.
“All of us at the Boston Symphony hope that our virtual offerings will provide the orchestra’s music community a deep sense of sustenance, joy, and beauty. We look forward to continuing to share the orchestra’s many musical gifts with our growing online following and welcoming back our loyal audiences, as well as encouraging newcomers, to gather with us once it’s safe to resume live performances. Until then, we hope our online offerings will lift everyone’s hearts and spirits and inspire well-being, especially over the holiday season.”