Spectrum is committed to presenting outstanding chamber music performances by musicians in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and friends. And, according to Spectrum Director Dan Sigale, none of that will change whether they’re playing live or live-streamed.
In this upcoming premiere concert of the 2020-2021 Concert season, Sigale says that the group will present an eclectic mix of music from the late 1700s to 2012, playing three different quartet pieces that are only one movement each. These three short pieces written over a little over 100 years apart from one another include music from Mozart from the late 1700s, Anton Webern, written in the early 1900s. The most recent piece is called Strum, written by Jessie Montgomery and finalized in 2012. “It’s a wide range of dates — and a wide range of emotions,” Sigale says, “showing different moods, different sides of the string quartet. Three very different types of pieces. We’re really excited about that.”
Sigale says that the Mozart piece, Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, is dramatic, with elements of foreboding intensity that feels almost like anger. “It’s a strong, powerful, intense piece,” he adds. “Even though he wasn’t angry, it sounds kind of like that. This fugue is also in C minor, so that gives it even more of a severe feel.”
In contrast, Sigale goes on to explain, the Webern piece, Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement), is about young love and is beautiful and unabashedly romantic. And Strum, written by living composer Jessie Montgomery, is just pure joy and dancing. “As you might guess from the title, the string instruments sound more like guitars in some places,” he adds.
Finally, there is the clarinet piece, the Clarinet Quintet by Carl Maria von Weber. Sigale explains that Weber wrote this piece in the early 1800s, and his style bridges the gap between Mozart and Beethoven. “It is essentially a concerto for clarinet and strings, with a high level of virtuosity,” he adds. “This piece is technically very challenging for the clarinet, with parts that are very vocal-like. Because Weber was an opera composer, he almost treats the clarinet like a human voice.”
As you may remember, FUMCFW hosted and sponsored Spectrum’s first online concert of this type this past June, titled “A Six-Feet-Apart” Concert. The group received so many compliments because of the sophistication of the online experience, from sound quality to visual quality to camera work, and Sigale says the concert was a great experience for the musicians as well and those who viewed it. “We felt that the concert was a great success, and we are so excited to get to do another one!”
Sigale says that although performing chamber music during a pandemic is not without its challenges, it hasn’t changed the ensemble’s programming. However, he adds with a smile, it definitely changes how the group approaches its playing together. “Chamber music is very intimate,” Sigale explains, “both in terms of the close proximity of musicians to one another and the shared energy and connection over this music they share — as well as the connections they feel with their audience — and the feedback that comes from watching the faces of those for whom they are playing. String quartet music stands are sometimes right up against each other. Musicians sit as close as they can so they can hear each other and feel more connected with one another.
Now standing literally 6 feet apart now because of COVID, these musicians have to make up for that lack of physical proximity and connection. “It’s hard enough being 6 feet apart from one another,” he says, “and then when you add the masks, you’re also missing out on the non-verbal cues that come from facial expressions. We have eye contact and physical gestures, but we miss those facial cues. And we really miss being able to connect with one another and people in our audiences in that way.”
Sigale says that when the group performed in June, no one wore masks. “I think we thought that was OK at the time because there was certainly enough distance. This time around, we’re planning to wear masks.” One caveat, he says, is that while the director and strings players can wear masks, the clarinetist cannot.
“We’re still working that out,” he says, adding his hopes that similar to how other senses tend to become heightened when one is lost, these musicians are being forced to find new and different ways to connect with one another, even when sitting farther apart, and even when playing to a physically empty venue.
Sigale says that even though Spectrum has been given the choice of pre-recording for some of the live-streamed concerts they have coming up, they still prefer the immediacy of live performance. “We love the experience of playing right there in the moment. It still feels like a live connection with the audience, even though we are not all in the same place.”
He adds that they think of and treat these performances like a live concert—because it is! “We still have the same nerves, the same way of playing off the audience that is there, even if it is just a few camera operators and sound techs. “Even though we can’t feel the audience’s energy in the room, we’re learning to play off the memory of the energy, even though our audience is on the other side of the lens.”
Sigale says that they also love being able to see the likes, loves, and comments that come in on Facebook Live and YouTube Live. “The musicians really appreciate getting that feedback,” he says. “It really helps us to know that we actually touched people with our music, even if we can’t see this feedback in the moment like you can before a live audience, it’s still very important to us!”
Another silver lining to this COVID-19 cloud, Sigale says, is how it has expanded Spectrum’s audience base. Still surprised by the incredible response to their Six-Feet-Apart concert at FUMCFW on June 18, Sigale says that this local concert not only attracted audience members from all over the country, and even some from other parts of the world, but the former in-person audience that may have been 75-100 increased dramatically. More than 500 people viewed the concert on the Spectrum Facebook Live feed alone, not to mention the hundreds of views the performance has received since. This number doesn’t even include the hundreds of views received on our fumcfw.org Livestream, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live.
Sigale theorizes that these audiences are likely at least partly comprised of people who might not otherwise attend a chamber music concert, but the low threshold of being in your own living room listening in your PJs makes this wonderfully enriching music experience more accessible to the average listener and nonintimidating to those who don’t know much about classical music. “I think our concert has been heard by a lot of people who would never go to a chamber music concert, but listening while sitting in their living room is quite different. Hopefully, when we’re back in person, we’ll have created some new chamber music enthusiasts!”
Sigale says this upcoming Spectrum Chamber Music Society Six-Feet-Apart concert will offer such a varied program that it will really give people who aren’t as familiar with chamber music a great entry-level experience and opportunity to really see the wide range of music that exists within classical music, especially for small ensembles. He adds that this diverse virtual chamber music concert experience will be approximately an hour long. “Not a huge time commitment,” he says, smiling, “but very rich in content.”
“Join us!” he urges. “Put it on your calendar, remember to set aside this time and then log on, sit back and relax with your favorite beverage, and just let this music work its magic. You just might discover a new way to unwind, feel inspired, and allow music to move you as nothing else can.”
Picture Yourself at a Spectrum Concert!
As a special fundraiser for his Spectrum Chamber Music Society and as a way to help musicians connect with their audience in empty venues, Dan has hatched a new idea that promises to be great fun for everyone involved.
For a donation of $75, you can upload a picture of yourself to be made into a life-sized cut-out that will then be placed in the pews during the concert. Branded with the Spectrum logo, these cut-outs will be signed by the performers of each concert and, when there can be live audiences again, returned to you as a thank you and souvenir of this unique experience we’re all living in — and a tangible reminder of how music helped us all through it.
Proceeds of this fundraiser will go to support the Spectrum musicians and the programs they are continuing through this season of chaos and challenge — to help keep this beautiful music playing in the minds and hearts of those who enjoy its unique gifts.
To join the fun and add your face to the virtual crowd, click here by September 21. Spectrum musicians look forward to seeing you!join the crowd download concert program