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Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020

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July/August issue is now available in flipthrough HERE, bringing to a close 25 seasons of doing what we do (and plan to continue doing), and on stands early in the week of July 5. Not the usual bucolic parade of music in the summer sun, but lots, we hope, to pass the time: links to online and virtual music; a full slate of record reviews; plenty new in the Listening Room; and a full slate of stories – the future of opera, the plight of small venues, the challenge facing orchestras, the barriers to resumption of choral life, the challenges of isolation for real-time music; the steps some festivals are taking to keep the spirit and substance of what they do alive. And intersecting with all of it, responses to the urgent call for anti-racist action and systemic change.

March 22,

March 22, 2020: musical “first responder” Jeff Beecher, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra principal double bass, rounded up musicians from the orchestra to perform Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring from their homes, with the help of a click track. Beecher did the edit combining the tracks. Have there been joint efforts? We are keeping in touch with the Canadian Live Music Association and have tried to line up some of our recommendations with theirs so we get some critical mass. We also work closely with, CAPACOA, as well as the Canadian Dance Assembly, to see if we can dovetail our various requests. I’ve read in The Guardian that Boosey & Hawkes has been emailing orchestras and managers around the world to propose works that contain up to 20 and up to 50 musicians. Do you think some of the Canadian orchestras will go smaller, repertoire-wise, in the fall? I’m not surprised to hear that. I expect a number of artist managers have been going to the orchestras and saying, We have this soloist who has this repertoire for chamber orchestra. But the uncertainty around opening dates, travel requirements and quarantine requirements will not make any bookings easy. Similarly, this affects repertoire as well – in some cases the orchestras may be looking very closely at the repertoire that they have in their library, that they can use if they get the word that in two weeks’ time they’re going to be able to put on a performance. I think there’s a lot of planning right now for small ensemble work, and possibly towards a classical orchestra size work, possibly moving towards full orchestral by the end of next season, but it really depends on what the prevailing conditions are. I think people are trying to buy themselves the maximum amount of flexibility in their artistic planning so that they’re not committing themselves to paying a rental fee or guest soloist fee unless they actually know that the performance can happen. It may be a good period for Mozart serenades… You’ve probably seen the recent announcement of the new Koerner Hall season? It struck me as more local, more Canadian than usual. It’s a very strong season and I thought the simultaneous announcement of the season and the indication of all the forms of flexibility around ticket refunds was an interesting message. So [both] we are announcing the season, and how we’ll take care of you if it does not happen. Do you see an era coming up where we will be more local, with not that many soloists from abroad? I’m seeing a lot of conversations happening in terms of working with core orchestra or only a few additional per-service musicians, working with local soloists, working with resident conductors; and a lot of conversations with music directors if they’re not in Canada about how they would handle quarantine if it’s still in effect at the point they are expected to lead concerts. I think, as Erin Benjamin of the Canadian Live Music Association said, this could be a spectacular opportunity for Canadian artists. Given that they’re more likely to take a date than someone who has to balance the need for a 14-day quarantine at the end of a trip. You’ve probably been following the science reporting around the aerosol particles spread by instruments and singing. The spread is not as significant around instruments, including brass, studies seem to be suggesting? From what I understand, the research that’s been published so far has not been peer-reviewed and most has not been replicated since the original research. We are a small part of the international research project that’s been put together in the US, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Maryland at College Park. There’s a consortium project, total cost about US0,000, to do research on aerosol particles, wind instruments and singing. What we’re hoping is that that will give the calibre of research necessary to support next steps. But I’m getting I would say a little short tempered with the reckless sharing of things that no one actually understands in terms of the science and that has not been peer-reviewed nor replicated. I know everybody wants to play, I totally get that, people want to be back in business. But we need good science, not just hope. I’ve read what’s out there, and I’m getting a bit cranky about the fact that we’re letting our natural desire to play perhaps blind us to the calibre of what’s been produced. To a certain degree, we have to wait. To be sure that we are doing things with all appropriate care for the artists and for audience members and backstage workers. I know everybody wants to play, I totally get that, people want to be back in business. But we need good science, not just hope. So are our orchestras going to have a fall season this year? Well, we already know that a few have already said that the season that they sold to the public will not be happening as they sold it to the public in their brochures. Victoria Symphony has said that, Vancouver Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria have said that. And I expect that we will be seeing more announcements like that. If you have a season that starts in September that is predicated on international guest artists, conductors and guest artists coming from an international location, and where the budget is predicated on selling 80 percent of your seats in a 1500 or a 2000-seat hall, it seems pretty clear that in many venues that won’t be happening. Some orchestras have said We’ll be doing something, but we’re not going to be doing what we originally put in the brochures. I expect that we will see all kinds of different activity. We need music. Musicians need to play. Online is fine, we had a lot of fun with that, and will continue, but being in the same space is emotionally and socially important. It’s likely that an orchestra of 95 people sitting in close proximity on the stage performing for an audience of 2000 people also sitting in close proximity in an enclosed space is something that will be unlikely to be happening by September. What would make that possible? It will require more research on people making 14 | July and August 2020

music in close proximity; it will require ideally either a vaccine or treatment for the virus that is effective; it will require health and safety precautions; and it may even require renovations to venues to enable what social distancing can be done. Think about Roy Thomson Hall: walking into the lobby, how the line-ups work,;think about the hallways to the orchestra level at RTH, those long, skinny downward ramps… Many organizations and venues across Canada are right now trying to figure out how many people they can accommodate, how quickly they can get them into the hall with physical distancing in place, how many people can be accommodated in the physically distanced venue, and trying to figure out what they can afford and how much ticket revenue they can forego. By the way, there’s an organization based in the US called the Event Safety Alliance, that has published a useful guide to safe reopening – it’s not orchestra-specific but it is about developing a strong venue reopening plan. Do you ever worry if we’re shut down for too long, people will lose the habit? Ticket sales for opera for example have already been modestly but steadily going down every year. Do you ever worry that after a certain point people will not want to go out, mix with others and take any amount of risk in order to hear an orchestra play? That’s one of the reason we are seeing the amount of digital content that we are seeing – it’s so organizations can stay in touch with their people, and to keep those connections warm and current, and in some ways to expand the reach of their offerings. We initially saw a lot of experimentation, I suspect there is a lot of more strategic focus now in terms of who are you trying to reach and what kinds of things you are sharing with them. Part of the post-COVID response is going to depend on how carefully we have tended those relationships through this period. I agree with you that if the habit is one that people don’t actually miss having, then we have a problem. But if we succeed in demonstrating both that there’s a reciprocal relationship there between the performers and the audience, and that we all want nothing more than to be back in the same room together, I think there are possibilities. What is it that makes a performance a “gotta be there” activity? It’s something we’ll be talking about a lot in the coming days. That sense of really needing to be present, in real time, for the experience. But this is where I guess I get stuck on the idea of safety, and of welcoming, and of care. If orchestras open prematurely and people are put in danger because they were welcomed back too soon, I think it would be harder to come back from that. Lydia Perović is a writer in Toronto, including writing on art song and other subjects for The WholeNote ( This interview appeared first in her arts blog, Definitely the Opera. ATTENTION MUSIC PRESENTERS | VENUES | ARTS MANAGERS | ENSEMBLES OF ALL KINDS Stand up and be counted with a profile in The WholeNote’s 21 st annual Blue Pages None of us know when the 2020/21 season will go ahead, or what it will look like, but we’ll be ready when you are. ▲ ▲ ▲ Listings for individual concerts or entire seasons, online right away, and then in print. Email or use the online form at Online and livestreamed performances, updated weekly in our online listings go to WholeNote Blue Pages profiles will be published in October for members who are ready. Additional profiles will be published in November and December. These can also be changed online as your plans evolve. Contact THE WHOLENOTE: MEMBERSHIP AND DIRECTORIES – HELPING US SUPPORT WHAT YOU DO July and August 2020 | 15

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