As the coronavirus pandemic continues to burn around the world, and uncertainty continues to cloud forecasts of what the winter and new year will hold, the Grand Teton Music Festival has made sure it still can present classical music to its audiences and boosters.
Starting this month it will launch “GTMF On Location,” a five-concert digital chamber music series, with performances recorded and produced by festival players in their home cities, including at least one installment recorded in Berlin.
“The series creates opportunities for more intimate artistic access to GTMF musicians who comprise some of the best musicians from the best orchestras across the United States,” the festival wrote in press material announcing the series.
The nonprofit learned a great deal about producing such “virtual concerts” this past summer, when the COVID-19 crisis forced it to cancel its 59th summer season and substitute similar “Music from the Mountains” programs.
Recording and streaming performances, festival Music Director Sir Donald Runnicles said, is “not ideal.”
“The audience’s presence … adds an energetic air of expectation,” he said. “It’s something you play to, something you react to, the energy in the room. Without that … it’s missing a kind of dynamic.”
But other things make up a bit for audience energy: a poignancy, an acknowledgement of what is missing, a different atmosphere that can tint the performance. Camera crews can get into the action and capture facial expressions and technical virtuosity.
And, of course, it is work for musicians who have had little or none for the past five or six months, and work with good friends who in many cases have long histories of camaraderie and music-making.
“It’s like any great sports team,” Runnicles said. “The orchestra is a team, and a team is only as good as how well they all play together.”
And there’s one other benefit to performing under social-distance restrictions: “It’s a very different acoustical experience,” Runnicles said, that places new demands on the individuals. “I do know that the day when we come back to being normal, this will inform their playing. … It has tightened their awareness of the ensemble and heightened their awareness of listening to each other.”
The first program will be recorded at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City and is set to broadcast at 7 p.m. Nov. 12. It will feature violinists Bruno Eicher and Ling Ling Huang, violist Mary Hermann, cellists Kari Jane Docter and Joel Noyes, Stephanie Mortimore on the piccolo and, returning to the festival fold after more than a decade, Paulo Bordignon on harpsichord.
On the program are Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C Major, Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Beethoven’s Sting Trio No. 5 in C minor and Elgar’s Elegy for Strings, as well as Hong Kong-American composer Tonia Ko’s 2012 work “Still Life Crumbles” for violin and harpsichord, “part of GTMF’s ongoing goal provide opportunities for more diversity in its performance repertoire,” the press release said.
Subsequent “GTMF On Location” events will be offered the second week of each month through March 2021 on GTMF’s YouTube Channel and its Facebook page.
“Even though some of us are far away from Jackson Hole, we’re never really far away,” Runnicles said of the COVID-19-era offerings. “Our musicians have the festival in their hearts, they are thinking of us, and we’re all very much hoping that [the 2021 season] will take place.” ￼