Les Dissonances chamber music series started performing on June 17. They were quite careful to only seat 150 in an auditorium that seats over 1,600. I believe I read that the audience was also required to be masked but now I can’t remember where I read that.

Only trouble?

The musicians weren’t masked as they shared the stage. They played Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye piano duo, sharing a piano. No gloves, of course. They played duos, trios, quartets … and Natalie Dessay sang at what turned out to be their final concert.

After four concerts they canceled future events because one musician tested positive for Covid-19.

And this is one reason I don’t believe performers will be back to work in the near future. Here in the United States I am certain we won’t be back to work for a very long time: we have been so much worse about being careful and our numbers are far too high and rising.

I find the news of the chamber concerts in France so troubling. When we began to cancel concerts some suggested orchestras play for empty halls but live stream the concerts — as if we are immune to this horrendous virus. (Or is it that we are expendable? Hm.) One orchestra in Germany DID do a live stream concert in that way (funny, though, that many of their regular players didn’t join in and there were a number of subs or second players sitting principal). They were unmasked and seated normally, quite close together, with no screen protection. Early on we were urged to figure things out. Get back out there. Don’t let music die … don’t let the audiences down … don’t let them forget us!

Truth be told, we musicians (and I’m guessing performers in general) have always been so ready (and urged) to work while ill. I know I even played when I had a fever of 102° (many years ago). I know one player who sat in a pit while ill and, as a special little gift, gave a neighboring musician pneumonia. We have had “the show must go on” drilled in to us for far too long.

I’m grateful for the musicians who have the energy to put together the “virtual performances” we find online. No, they aren’t the same as being in a hall full of people, or being on stage with our colleagues, but they are safe. This time of confinement doesn’t mean the music stops. It means it is offered up differently. It does mean some will be retiring rather than returning (lists of openings are growing, from what a friend and colleague told me). But the music doesn’t have to die. It’s a new time of creativity and careful planning. Performers are creatives, after all … time to create in new, safe, experimental ways.

Here … enjoy this wonderful safe performance of the last movement of the Beethoven Oboe Trio, played by Seattle Symphony musicians Mary Lynch, Chengwen Winnie Lai, and Stefan Farkas.

1 Comment

  1. Not quite as much fun listening to it as playing it, but what a great performance – especially with the digital distancing.

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