Robin Kesselman, the Symphony's Principal Double Bass, has joined an impromptu digital group, lovingly dubbed the Stay at Home Symphony Orchestra, to record Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Overture" to The Marriage of Figaro. Twelve artists from across the nation gathered independently to record their individual instrument's part before it was compiled and released on YouTube.
The gathering of artists from across the nation to perform in a virtual space was spearheaded by Kesselman's college roommate, The Philadelphia Orchestra's Associate Principal Flute Patrick Williams.
"We rely so heavily on our audience for both our livelihood and energy. We do what we do to change people’s lives, and when that venue goes away, we have to ask tough questions about how we move forward and bring music to people and maintain our artistic integrity," Williams said.
The Stay at Home Symphony Orchestra is composed of members from Atlanta Symphony, Chattanooga Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Houston Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Recruiting the members to assemble the performance was relatively easy for Williams.
"Luckily, the music world is a tight-knit community. Some people I went to school with or met over the years. I have a lot of wonderful friends who play in the country and around the world. It's easy to guess we're all home doing nothing, so it was easy to recruit. I was texting, and everyone was super enthusiastic about the project. It really only took about five days to complete," Williams said.
Even though the whole project came to fruition in five days, it still had its hurdles. Kesselman said, "It’s technically challenging to practice it. You have to record it in one take. I practiced for two days."
Williams added, "When files get compressed and sent online or over Google Drive, some latency can creep into the files. Even if you line up everything at the beginning, through the project, the timing can get off. It took substantial editing to the audio to make everything sync."
The finished product, though, is a feast for the ears and a shining example of how the arts community is overcoming adversity.
The Stay at Home Symphony Orchestra is just one response from many arts groups across the city, nation and world to address the changes COVID-19 has forced upon us. Houston Press is following the trend and will continue to keep readers up to date on how they can still enjoy arts and culture.
Houston Symphony has followed the same steps of the Stay at Home Symphony Orchestra and started releasing music and videos on its website. A prepared statement detailed how the group is doing their part to still serve their mission.
"The Houston Symphony is offering musical relief. It’s making its concert broadcasts available to stream on demand for free online, as well as creating musician videos, blogs, curated playlists, and more available at houstonsymphony.org/listenathome. While the Symphony already broadcasts live on Houston Public Media each Sunday evening, each broadcast concert will now also be posted on the Houston Symphony website for on-demand streaming, and new broadcasts will be made available on-demand for one month after their broadcast date. In addition, the Symphony is stepping up to create a new schedule of content available in greater quantity on its website and via social media."
Houston Symphony committed to posting content featuring Houston Symphony musicians regularly throughout each week. Thursdays, the Houston Symphony’s Community Embedded Musicians are producing a plethora of videos, blog posts, and other content focusing on education.
Enjoy "Overture" to The Marriage of Figaro on YouTube. Follow Houston Symphony's online music and videos at houstonsymphony.org/listenathome.