Newport Symphony opens with live recorded string quartet

The first Newport Symphony performance of the 2020-21 season will feature the NSO Element String Quartet presented online via Zoom on Sept. 26. Pictured (left to right) are Casey Bozell, violin; Irene Gadeholt, violin; Shauna Keyes, viola; and Barbara Johnston, cello. (Courtesy photos)

By Leslie O’Donnell

For the News-Times

“There will absolutely be a season for the Newport Symphony Orchestra,” music director and conductor Adam Flatt said this week. 

And while the season may look a bit different from ones in the past, Flatt said emphatically, “We’ve got a wonderful community here, and it’s imperative that we just don’t declare an extended intermission.”

The result will be two series — four “Great Music and Intimate Evenings” live recorded performances, and four “Musician’s Living Room” events. 

The first Newport Symphony performance of the 2020-21 season, titled “Great Music and Intimate Evenings No. 1,” will be presented online on Zoom on Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m., with a performance by the symphony’s own NSO Element String Quartet. The quartet will perform String Quartet, G minor, Op. 10 by Claude Debussy and Lyric for Strings by Pulitzer Prize-winning Black American composer George Walker.

Billed as “an intimate evening with limited attendance,” the concert features the orchestra’s principal string players — concertmaster Casey Bozell and associate concertmaster Irene Gadeholt, both on violin; Shauna Keyes, principal viola, and Barbara Johnston, principal cello.

The performance will be recorded live with video and audio at the Newport Performing Arts Center, with the musicians on stage and spaced safely. The live recorded concert will then be presented online over Zoom on Sept. 26, followed by a live interactive discussion.

The program, offering about 45 minutes of music, will open with a welcome from Flatt and introductions of each musician. The quartet will then perform, followed by live, interactive conversation with the audience, musicians and Flatt.

While Flatt will not be in attendance at the actual performance, he will be live after the concert to moderate audience participation.

“We hope we can, at some point, do a live performance,” said Don Nelson, executive director of the symphony. “But we don’t know when that would be right now.”

The Zoom presentation allows the audience and musicians to interact with each other in real time. “We wanted to have connection with people in the audience, which is why we are doing it this way,” Nelson explained.

Flatt said Debussy is one of the pillars of the string quartet’s repertoire. He asked the quartet to perform as well what he called “an absolutely beautiful piece” by Walker that he considers timely. “Together, they make a beautiful program,” he said.

“The music needs to go on,” Flatt added, noting that the string quartet is one of the genres that has inspired “the greatest composers to write their greatest music.”

This first performance will be followed by three more “intimate evenings,” with dates to be announced soon.

Musician’s Living Room Series

Flatt said the idea for the Musician’s Living Room series “came out of my head about 3:30 one night. There’s a great hunger among people for life-long learning, and there’s always curiosity about what musicians do. We’ll be visiting with one musician in their home each time. I think this will be a really interesting way to spend an hour with a musician.”

The series, which encompasses playing music, fielding questions and demonstrating various instruments, will be interactive. Dates are being finalized.

It will begin with percussionist Rachel Dobrow Stone, who has a large collection of exotic instruments. An attorney in Seattle, her mother was a percussionist in the Oregon Symphony.

Consecutive series feature Katherine Evans, principal trumpet for the Newport Symphony. She lives in Vancouver, B.C., and is a vocalist as well. Next will be violinist and Newport Symphony concertmaster Casey Bozell. And last will be principal harpist Martha Griffith from Eugene, a third-generation Oregon harpist who has an array of Welsh and Celtic harps.

“We are obviously not able to gather large numbers of people together, as needed for a live orchestra, but it was never an option to go dark,” Flatt said. “Some orchestras have just drawn the curtains and are waiting, but I’m proud to say we’re not among them.

“We’re in a position where we need to remain flexible to comply with public health regulations and common sense,” Flatt said of the shift to live-recorded performances. But he emphasized there is no doubt a full season will be presented, albeit in the new format with four concerts and an additional four special visits with musicians.

Flatt said the symphony will wait until public health authorities allow prudent assembly. “At that point, we will be nimble enough to reassemble and get back on stage to perform for the community,” he said. “There’s never been an option for the board, for me or for the musicians not to find a way to keep making music for Lincoln County and the region.”

Once the pandemic hit, the symphony immediately set out to offer short musical videos via its website at newportsymphony.org under “NSO to Go.” Through those weekly NSO to Go videos, “the community could get to know the musicians as individuals,” Flatt said. “Their personalities emerge, and it will be a lovely connection once we get back on stage.” He said the idea for the “intimate evening” performances grew out of the small “To Go” pieces.

To attend the first “Great Music and Intimate Evenings” live recorded string quartet concert, visit the symphony website at newportsymphony.org and click on “Intimate Evening No. 1” and follow the prompts. Cost is $25 per household; an unlimited number of people can watch with the purchaser for the single price. A limited number of spaces on Zoom are available, keeping the intimacy of the program at the forefront.

More information is available at 541-574-0614.

Dates for the three other “Intimate Evenings,” as well as for the Musician’s Living Room series, will be announced very soon, Flatt said. Tickets will be available in two packages — “intimate evenings” and the living room series — with some offered singly.

“We want people to know that we’re still active and working to help people in the community enjoy great music,” Nelson noted.

“Our mission is to serve the community and region with inspiring performances of great music, and it’s an incredible blessing that technology allows us to gather together this way,” Flatt concluded.

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