September 30, 2020
An innovative approach amid the pandemic delivers a diverse lineup of classical masters, the hottest contemporary composers and Washington Area virtuosos
WASHINGTON, DC — Launching on Sunday, October 25th, the National Philharmonic presents a full concert season unlike any other it has ever conducted. Available entirely online and for free, music lovers will have the opportunity to watch and listen to live performances from the comfort of their own home.
The season opens with a 250th birthday bash for Beethoven, then, every two weeks, audiences can tune in on Sundays at 2pm via NatPhil’s website to watch a live National Philharmonic concert with musicians playing in a socially-distanced setting. The performances will rotate between orchestra and chamber concerts. The orchestra concerts will by held at Strathmore and led by Music Director & Conductor Piotr Gajewski, while the chamber concerts will take place at AMP by Strathmore and be led by NatPhil‘s newly appointed Concertmaster Laura Colgate. Each of the 15 concerts will be accompanied by talks contextualizing the music, interspersed throughout each one- hour virtual stream.
National Philharmonic has taken great pains to ensure an environment that is as safe as possible for the performing musicians, following CDC guidelines and utilizing Strathmore’s new state-of-the-art air filtration system. The orchestra has been reduced to 34 musicians and will be spaced out in a performance hall that has a capacity of 2,000 people. Aside from moments that require woodwinds, all musicians will remain masked throughout the entirety of their time in the building. All musicians will have the opportunity to decide their level of comfort and participation in this year’s season.
“We will be monitoring the situation very closely,” says National Philharmonic President and CEO, Jim Kelly. “This is a personal decision for everyone. We consider art and music to be essential to life, so we’re going to try and deliver that to the community,” he continues.
This season is not only innovative in its technological approach, but also in its programming. While there are many classical favorites by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others, National Philharmonic is also presenting works of many contemporary composers and increasing diversity by including works by women and composers of color. Much focus is placed on American composers and even those with a local DC Metro Region connections. Highlights include works of Adolphus Hailstork and William Grant Still, Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon and Pulitzer Prize winner, Melinda Wagner. Cover Conductor and Lecturer, Rebecca Smithorn, will conduct interviews with many of the composers represented and these will be available on NatPhil’s website throughout the season.
“I am incredibly excited about the upcoming season,” said Gajewski. “While it will be unusual to play concerts without a live audience, the online presentation format will allow us to enhance performances in ways that are novel and interesting, with closeup shots of the musicians playing and interacting with each other; and even some demonstrations of how the music itself is constructed and what makes it work!”
This new season comes as something of a coup for an organization that was near folding just one year ago, before bringing in new President and CEO, Kelly. After righting the organization’s finances, Kelly, along with Gajewski set their sights on not just returning things to normal, but on becoming a leading organization in the fight for equity, social justice and representation in classical music, even in the midst of the pandemic.
“Our season reflects the changing times we are in,” Says Kelly. “Instead of holding onto the old business model, we focused on two fronts, finding a safe way to engage our patrons and presenting opportunities for under-represented artists to be heard. With the diversity of voices represented, and our efforts to bring music directly into people’s homes during the pandemic, I believe that this will be the National Philharmonic’s most impactful season ever.
For more information and a full schedule of this year’s season. Please visit the National Philharmonic website at: NationalPhilharmonic.org.
The National Philharmonic serves the residents of the Washington, DC metro area. The primary goal of the organization is to provide audiences with high quality, professional performances at a convenient location and at affordable prices. The National Philharmonic also aims to appeal to the diverse cultural backgrounds of the community through its musical performances and educational programs.
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