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How To Participate in the Arts During the Pandemic

Music is a communal endeavor. It represents a gift of beauty from the composer, to the performer, and through them both to the auditor - who in turn returns the gift with his/her riveted, unswerving attention. A trinity if you will of mind and soul nourishment for all parties.

During a pandemic, it is easy to feel a sense of detachment from larger artistic and cultural ventures, due to the fact that large gatherings are now prohibited.

Whilst there is no doubt that orchestras and opera companies and the like are suffering at the moment, many have demonstrated considerable ingenuity in bringing their performances online. Hopefully their examples will encourage others to follow suit and thus open up untold potential at reaching a broader audience for their respective organizations.

For the student, it is near crucial to nourish their perspective, immersion and thereby love and appreciation for the communal aspects of live performance.

As such, I would like to put forward a listening list of major organizations who have thought outside the box to bring the live musical performance the WWW. Here are my picks, in no particular order.


Toronto Symphony – Handel's Messiah

This work is a Christmas classic with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (the irony being that it was originally written by Handel in 1741 for the Easter celebration). This year the TSO is presenting a multimedia presentation virtually with the avant garde opera company Against the Grain in what should prove to be a most interesting and engaging presentation of this master work!


Berlin Philharmonic - Digital Concert Hall

Now you can experience one of the world's truly great and historied orchestras right from the comfort of your own living room. The Berlin Philharmonic is the cream of the crop and this is a rare series of opportunities to hear them outside of the Philharmonie.

(I would recommend any concert from the series but if I was forced to choose, I would view Zubin Mehta conducting Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony; a towering Mount Everest of the symphonic literature performed by arguably the greatest conductor of the last hundred years.)

Koerner Hall, Toronto’s signature recital hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music is presenting a streamlined concert series this year with select concerts being live streamed. This particular concert features Canada‘s top internationally touring chamber ensemble, the Gryphon Trio, teamed up with one of my teachers, concert pianist Jon Kimura Parker in what will prove to be an energetic and uplifting recital.

Another concert from Koerner Hall! This one features arguably the world's leading touring concert violinist James Ehnes, collaborating with Stewart Goodyear.

(I went up through the ranks with Stewart. He is a remarkable pianist and I recall once whilst struggling with the rigours of a full length recital program and some chamber music, my teacher commenting saying not to feel sorry for myself because the Stewart Goodyear was at the time negotiating all 32 Beethoven sonatas, and the complete WTC!)

The Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC is home to one of the world's greatest chamber music series. For you chamber music buffs, any of these live stream concerts should be inscribed in your calendars as must listen!

My first teacher, Rosemary Collins was the principal keyboardist and often guest conducted the incidental music which accompanied the Shakespearean plays and dramas at the world famous Stratford Festival. Following this link you will see some live stream possibilities, and also access professional film productions put on by Stratford featuring some of the worlds greatest Shakespearean actors! This is an incredible resource.

The National Ballet of Canada within the recent decade has really emerged as one of the world's preeminent ballet companies. In our family, attending the Nutcracker ballet has become a mainstay of the Christmas tradition. Unfortunately such a production is too big for the company to mount this year, however there are smaller presentations offering a much more intimate glimpse into the magic of movement and dance.

Another Canadian institution doing it absolutely the right way is the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra! Presenting socially distanced live and live stream concert programming they have found the will and the desire to honour their musicians, and I still showcase some of the world's preeminent touring artists. A venture which Canadians everywhere should be supporting!

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