West Michigan Symphony concerts going online this fall

Muskegon, Michigan, August 24, 2020— This fall, West Michigan Symphony will be bringing Beethoven, Grieg, Tchaikovsky and other great classical composers to people directly in their living rooms. The 2020-2021 Season will proceed as scheduled, but at least through the remainder of the calendar year performances will be offered exclusively online—in a series of virtual concerts webcast from Muskegon’s Frauenthal Center stage. The season opening, featuring Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 2.

“I’d like to say that with our virtual concerts, everyone gets a front row seat, but actually it’s even better: everyone gets to sit onstage with the musicians!” said Music Director Scott Speck in describing the unique experience these productions afford. WMS will rehearse and record the concerts in a series of weeknight or weekend sessions from the Frauenthal Center stage. Musicians will be checked for symptoms prior to entry into the hall and required to wear masks and maintain at least a six-foot physical distance at all times. The multi-camera video will be produced by filmographer Arvin Candelaria, and the audio recording engineered and mastered by Blue Lake Public Radio’s Steve Albert.

WMS has been developing its new Virtual Concert Hall format since June. “When we found ourselves unable to perform live last spring, instead of going dormant we got busy,” said Executive Director Andy Buelow. “Throughout the summer, WMS has been pioneering a new online concert series. Between mid-June and mid-August we provided our audience with virtual performances of the three final 2019-20 Season concerts.”

Other than the movie house livestreams of the Metropolitan Opera and a handful of other large companies, high-end video production has hitherto been a rarity in the classical music realm. “It was a genre in which we had little prior experience,” Buelow admitted. “But Arvin and Steve are total pros and we learned fast because we had to. Our core audience has been incredibly supportive and given us suggestions and positive feedback. We have developed a format that will enable us to move forward even during the current pandemic.”  WMS virtual concerts can be viewed on a variety of internet connected devices including desktop computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet or even smart TV.

Those watching from home have expressed themselves as captivated by the quality videography and rich sound. “The streamed performances have been uniquely inspiring,” wrote one patron. “It’s interesting to have a stage view of the hall, as well as close-ups of Scott and the performers.” Another enthused: “It felt like you were right here in our living room!”

WMS will offer its performances exclusively from the Virtual Concert Hall at least through the end of the calendar year. The October 2 season opening will be followed by “Beethoven’s Birthday” on Friday, November 13, featuring pianist Claire Huangci in Beethoven’s famed “Emperor” Piano Concerto. Then on Friday, December 11 WMS will offer “Home for the Holidays,” a collage-style concert pairing the orchestra with the Frauenthal Center’s newly-restored Barton Theater Organ, performed by Peter Kurdziel; along with Russian Bayan accordionist extraordinaire Stas Venglevski and vocalist Diane Penning. The West Michigan Symphony Children’s Choir will be filmed separately for safety reasons, singing to a pre-recorded orchestra track.

After the New Year, WMS will continue to provide virtual concerts as an option for those who prefer it, while re-introducing live attendance as it becomes possible under the Frauenthal Center’s new safety protocols. Among other procedures, all staff, ushers and patrons will be required to wear masks; directional traffic flow patterns established; seating will be limited to provide for physical distancing.

WMS is offering a “Virtual Pick & Choose” subscription package. Priced at $100 for a single and $168 for a double or household, the package includes four virtual concerts of the patron’s choosing from the eight-concert season. For a full concert schedule, visit www.westmichigansymphony.org. WMS will send patrons who sign up for the Pick & Choose a password-protected link to the Virtual Concert Hall web page prior to each performance date.  Benefits include:

  • 17% discount over single passes
  • Invitation to the premiere of each video concert with repeat access for 10 days
  • Subscriber-only virtual Lunch ‘n Learn prior to all Masterworks concerts
  • Free subscription to Notes, WMS’s monthly e-newsletter
  • Purchase additional concerts at subscriber discount

Single ticket virtual passes are priced at $10 for students, $30 for adults, and $50 for a household of two or more. For more information, call 231.726.3231 or email to info@westmichigansymphony.org.

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts