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Arts Features

Gateways confirms November virtual festival

 Rochester’s Gateways Music Festival has found a new home. WXXI’s Jeff Spevak reports...

Credit Gateways Music Festival/YouTube

Falling in line with other festivals throughout the world, theGateways Music Festival, postponed from earlier this summer, has confirmed plans to go virtual in November.The event, which has brought classical musicians of African descent to Rochester since 1995, first partnered with the Eastman School of Music four years ago. Last year’s seven-day event was its largest ever, with 17 public programs, more than 30 community performances and 125 musicians. This year’s Gateways, a five-day event starting on Nov, 9, may be equally ambitious in a different way, when set against the challenge presented by COVID-19.

Lee Koonce, Gateways’ president and artistic director, wants to maintain that strong connection to Rochester even as musicians, students and the classically curious from around the world use the internet to join the event from their own homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The festival’s opening night will play off Gateways’ commitment to the city. “Rochester’s Own” is a virtual concert featuring the area’s professional classical musicians of African descent. The musicians will be in venues throughout the city, performing in sync through the internet.

Gateways explored the technical challenge of 70 musicians from around the world connecting in virtual performance in June, when the New York City classical music station WQXR collaborated with the Gateways Orchestra for a six-minute video of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

November’s schedule will also include the Paul J. Burgett Memorial Lecture Series, named for the late scholar who held many positions during his 54 years at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music; the focus this year will be on the confluence of classical music and Black Lives Matter.

A detailed schedule will be released next month. The festival will also include films, solo and ensemble performances, new programming and re-broadcasts of Gateways-related content on WXXI’s classical station, and daily virtual segments bringing in voices from music organizations around the world. A week-long residency will involve several Rochester Central School District instrumental music programs.

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at jspevak@wxxi.org.

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