Musicians from the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle will be performing in person together for the first time in over a year.
The orchestra is hosting a free outdoor concert at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Made up of more than 40 professional musicians, the COT will present "Sounds from from the Golden Twenties" and hopes to allow up to 500 patrons, with tickets available for free online.
“Obviously this year we had had a full season planned, and then beginning March of last year that all came to a halt because of COVID, so we decided to do a fully virtual season, where we would support our musicians by actually filming them socially distanced playing the pieces and playing the music in different locations,” Marc Dinitz, director of marketing and patron loyalty, said.
But as more people got vaccinated and the weather became warmer, the orchestra decided it would have no treble finding an outdoor location for its final concert.
Dinitz said the North Carolina Museum of Art was an optimal location because of its amphitheater.
“Out of the blue we approached them and said, ‘Hey, we’d love to do this concert and we’d love to do it free for the community to come out and kind of celebrate getting back to normal with live music and events,'" he said. "We said that, and they were all in.”
Kat Harding, assistant director of communications and marketing for the NCMA, said this will be the biggest in-person event the museum has hosted since lockdown began, but that there are plans in place to keep the event COVID-19-safe.
“We still prefer that people outside wear their masks, and masks are required inside,” Harding said. “The capacity limit will keep people kind of spread out outside, and then of course we have hand-sanitizing stations around and cleaning of high-touch areas like restrooms and door handles and countertops and everything like that.”
Harding said that the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Theater usually holds up to 3,000 patrons, but a 500 person capacity limit will keep everyone spaced out and comfortable on both the benches and the lawn.
Niccoló Muti, executive director and assistant conductor, said the concert’s theme, which will feature Kurt Weill’s "Little Threepenny Music" and Paul Hindemith’s "Kammermusik No. 1," represents a decade of cultural vibrancy in Berlin.
“Germany was just coming out of World War I, and the country was in a ton of debt, and basically there was this moment of vibrancy for a decade which of course had tons of social, political implications, which I guess you could parallel in some way to what's going on today,” Muti said.
Between the historical significance and musical innovation of the program, Muti looks forward to conducting both pieces in front of a live audience this Sunday.
“Holy cow, I’m so excited,” he said. “It's just such a completely different energy than when you’re video recording, it’s a different amount of concentration. People don’t believe it when performers say it, but it’s really true, the audience is part of a production, and you feed off of it."
Muti isn’t the only musician itching to get back on stage. Percussionist Krista Siachames is thrilled to have the chance to perform live after a year.
“It’s always exciting playing live music no matter what, because you don’t know what’s going to happen," Siachames said. "There are always surprises. We are going to make mistakes and we’re going to do them in live time, but that’s the beauty of it.”
But music aside, Siachames and Muti are both just looking forward to being surrounded by people again.
“Music is one of the humanities and it’s very moving and very personal, and to do that through a computer screen or a virtual format is not the same," Siachames said. "Otherwise, all of our shows would be computers or robots playing. Being with people and playing with other people — the spontaneity of that will be incredibly gratifying.”
Muti said the feeling of camaraderie at an orchestra concert is similar to that of a whole crowd cheering for the same team at the ballpark — the players are just using bows rather than bats.
“I think that the arts have a similar thing — going to the theater, being in a place which maybe doesn’t seat hundreds of thousands but seats a few hundred, and being shoulder to shoulder or just in the same room and experiencing something together, I think that’s very powerful,” Muti said.
Muti said it was important to the orchestra that they host the concert for free so that anyone who wants to can share in this live music experience.
“Of course, like every other organization, we've gone through tough times throughout the pandemic and we would love to be able to charge for tickets, but I think what’s needed most right now is for people to have the opportunity to share a space and have a good time,” Muti said. “We’re happy to be able to provide that.”
From fans of classical music to someone who happens to stroll through the art museum on Sunday, Dinitz said that this concert is ultimately a gift to the community.
“We’ve had a lot of support from our patrons and everyone through all of this difficult season, so it’s almost like a thank you to everybody for getting us through this,” Dinitz said. “We just wanted to bring music to everyone for the finale of the season.”
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