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This is a place where our classical hosts, interns and artists can share their stories, viewpoints and point of view on topics related to classical music and the arts in general. Come back to this page often to read the latest and share your comments.

Living in a World of Live-Streams

Herb Smith conducting the RPO during their live-streamed education concert
Max Schulte
Herb Smith conducting the RPO during their live-streamed education concert

With the spread of COVID-19 around the world, communities are encouraged to practice social distancing. This decision will hopefully protect those most vulnerable and save lives. Unfortunately, this means that countless concerts and public gatherings are being canceled. While this decision is necessary, it leaves audience members without art and leaves artists without means to share.

Luckily, the world is connected digitally like never before. This allows for many concerts and companies to live-broadcast or offer streams to share music and offer comfort.As always, you can stream classical music from our station, classical915.org. This month we are featuring female composers and performers as part of women’s history month. Furthermore, while to me there is no thrill quite like hearing a performance live, in a time where that may not be possible here is what several companies are doing and what concert attendance looks like right now.

  1. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has postponed concerts for a few weeks. This meant that the educational concert scheduled for March 13, 2020 was in danger. It would not presently be judicious to bring busloads of children to the theatre, so the RPO brought the music to them. Teachers were sent a live-stream link and pre-concert classroom materials. This allowed children to experience the music of the “Get Out the Vote!” concert despite the current restrictions.

2. The Seattle Symphony is offering free video broadcasts and live-streams through March 31. These streams will be available through both Facebook and Youtube. A lexander White, Associate Principal Trumpet and Chairperson of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players’ Organization says, “As musicians, we unite in good times and bad to make music as a community, for our community. So, to our friends in Seattle and our friends around the world, here is our gift to you in the language we know best: music.”

  1. #antisocialartshow was started by Kelly Cheatle. While it is not exactly a live-stream, it continues the hope of finding comfort through art. The idea behind the movement is to create something artistic during this period of social distancing. Cheatle says to create “especially things that aren’t perfect.” Create something, play something, sing something, then share it to social media with the #antisocialartshow. We can all create something beautiful together…separately.

4. The Metropolitan Opera has cancelled all performances for several weeks. However, the company is offering “Nightly Met Opera Streams” on its website. The offering will begin on March 16th and each stream will begin at 7:30 pm EST. Here is a schedule for the first week of streams. 

5. The Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall is now being offered for free. You need to register by March 31st to receive free concerts and films from their service.

6. The Budapest Festival Orchestra is streaming a series of chamber music concerts on its website and Facebook page, calling their performances the Quarantine Soirées

7. Many one-time concerts are being streamed and offered. The wonderful people at Classical Music Communications are currently collecting a list of concerts that will be live-streamed. This includes the works included, the time, and the live-stream link. This is such a wonderful resource for anyone looking for music while avoiding journeys out into the world

Now that we know these resources are available, what exactly does a live-streamed world look like? Well, you can listen to and watch concerts from your couch in your pajamas. You can also create a “virtual watch party” by tuning in over video-calls with your loved ones. These concerts will provide comfort and solidarity in a time when many things remain uncertain. Furthermore, they allow artists (in some cases) a chance to continue to share their art.

Malinda Wagstaff singing in the studio at Spokane Public Radio
Malinda Wagstaff singing in the studio at Spokane Public Radio

I experienced this recently. I was scheduled to perform with the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra in a concert on the 13th and 14th.  The night of the first rehearsal, they informed us that due to concerns the concerts would be cancelled. While this was definitely the right decision to make, my heart was broken. However, the radio station in a neighboring city offered to bring all of the performers onto the show. We performed our pieces with piano accompaniment to a studio with about ten people (mainly the other performers and the conductor). I had been looking forward to singing with orchestra in a big hall full of people. Singing at the radio station did provide such a valuable experience. 

The outpouring of love and support from people near and dear to me was great. I was able to see my work come to some fruition. Many people reached out to say how much they enjoyed it, and I was happy to see that even though the concert was cancelled, people were still enjoying art and music. Several comments were along the lines of “I am so glad I tuned in to hear you on the radio. It was exactly what I needed this morning.” I felt grateful to still have my opportunity to perform, but I was more grateful to hear that live music was still able to provide comfort. Furthermore, it was great to see people supporting the symphony despite the lack of public performance.

These live-streamed concerts may not be ideal. The thrill of the acoustics in a performance hall are different than you get from your speaker. Costumers and set designers do not necessarily get to show all of the work they have put into a production. The excitement of going out to see a show is not the same. However, in a time where these have become the norm, I encourage everyone to tune in and see the positives: music can still unite us, even if we are self-isolating. Music can still comfort us, even when we are worried. Music can still teach us, even when schools are closing and moving online. Let us take this time to let music heal and enrich us even more than before.

Malinda Wagstaff is a soprano in her final year of studying at the Eastman School of Music. She was an intern at WXXI through the Eastman Arts Leadership Program, before internships were suspsended in response to COVID-19.