INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Classical Tahoe, a celebration of classical music that aims to enrich the cultural and community vitality of Lake Tahoe, is adapting its annual Orchestra Festival to a Chamber Music Series in Incline Village from July 30 to August 16. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the careers of musicians and artists, the performance nonprofit seeks to bring awareness on how chamber groups can perform safely for the community while providing a transformative, intimate music experience.
In pre-social distancing times, the annual classical music event took the form of a three-week-long orchestra festival, with 60 world-class musicians performing exceptional classical music to an audience of hundreds. As the pandemic spread to the United States and events were canceled or postponed, Classical Tahoe surveyed the musicians, donors, and supporters to ask them how they would like to see – or not see – the coveted event proceed. Based on the responses, one message was clear: art in these times of uncertainty is more important than ever.
The Classical Tahoe team focused on how to host the celebration in the safest way while bringing the healing power of music to the community. After months of careful planning and the guidance of a health advisor, the team decided to move from their traditional Orchestra Festival setting to instead host an intimate, live chamber series outdoors featuring up to 12 renowned musicians, open only to season ticket holders in a small and spaced-out audience of 25 people per concert. Additionally, Classical Tahoe has partnered with PBS Reno to livestream many of the chamber performances for those who feel safer enjoying the music at home. A subsequent six-episode PBS Reno documentary series will feature the story of 2020 in the form of brilliant music and first-hand accounts of both musicians and supporters who make up the Classical Tahoe community.
The decision to pivot to a Chamber Music Series was inspired by the organization’s beloved maestro, Joel Revzen, who battled COVID-19 through April and May before dying from complications on May 25. To honor Revzen’s legacy of musical excellence, Classical Tahoe aims to provide the community with an opportunity to experience world-class musicians from New York to Los Angeles that represents the late maestro’s vision despite the uncertain circumstances.
“Through this year’s chamber series, world-renowned musicians are coming together to tell the story of the pandemic through music,” said Karen Craig, Executive Director of Classical Tahoe. “90 percent of the country does not know anyone who has COVID-19, and our story tells that in spades. We want to be an example for the music industry; in these uncertain times, we have found a way to bring musicians back to work in a safe, socially distanced – yet socially connected – environment. We are proud to perform in Joel’s honor.”
This year’s Classical Tahoe event is organized by Concertmaster Laura Hamilton, who stepped in as Interim Artistic Director for the Chamber Series during Revzen’s two-month illness. Notable musicians who will be performing at this year’s Classical Tahoe series include:
Emmanuel Ceysson, Principal Harp – Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gilles Vonsattel, Pianist – Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Career Grant, Winner of the Naumburg and Geneva Competitions
David Chan, Concertmaster – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Nicholas Phan, Tenor – 2017 Grammy Award Nominee for Best Classical Vocal Solo Album
Whitney Crockett, Principal Bassoon – Los Angeles Philharmonic
Nathan Hughes, Principal Oboe – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
David Cooper, Principal Horn – Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Laura Hamilton, Concertmaster – Classical Tahoe since 2012 Festival Inception
Katie Kadarauch, Assistant Principal Viola – San Francisco Symphony
Peter Wyrick, Associate Principal Cello – San Francisco Symphony
Milan Milisavljević, Principal Viola – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Simon James, Second Assistant Concertmaster – Seattle Symphony Orchestra
The chamber series will also welcome special guests Frederica von Stade, world-famous mezzo-soprano, and renowned pianist and composer Jake Heggie. Each intermissionless concert will be followed by a “Meet the Musicians” question-and-answer session hosted by program annotator Cindy Rhys-Revzen.
“Music doesn’t sound the same in a vacuum, and it is not the same without an audience,” said Craig. “Most musical events throughout the pandemic have been streamed without an audience present at all. With our safe, socially-distanced event, our musicians will be responding to the energy of a small, intimate audience in order to bring forth the best performance possible. We want this year’s event to be a healing experience for all as we navigate our ‘new normal’ together.”
The Classical Tahoe team deeply understands the gravity of the pandemic, especially with the personal loss of their maestro. While striving to provide opportunities for musicians as the performing arts industry adapts to this “new normal,” it is of the utmost importance to protect the health and wellbeing of the musicians and community by ensuring thorough and heightened safety precautions are in place. The team sought the professional advice of a doctor to plan a safe series, and is following CDC, state and local guidelines. During the rehearsal and performance, as individuals arrive at the venue there will be temperature checks, guests and musicians will have specific arrival times to promote social distancing. They will be health-screened and asked to wear a mask or face shield (while not in their seat or performing).
All guests will be seated by household and spaced six feet apart. Staff will escort individuals to their assigned seats and sanitizer will be provided on each table. There will be frequent cleaning of the restroom, and guests will be asked to remain in their seats to ensure social distancing. Upon departure, everyone will be released by family units to promote social distancing. Additionally, chairs and stands will be wiped down in between each rehearsal and performance as well as full sanitization and cleaning of the space.
The livestream of the Chamber Music Series will be aired at 7 p.m. PST on Fridays and Saturdays from July 31-August 1, August 7-8 and August 14-15. The livestream will also be available for two weeks at ClassicalTahoe.org. The PBS Reno docuseries is slated to air later this year. For more information about this year’s Classical Tahoe chamber series lineup, visit ClassicalTahoe.org.
About Classical Tahoe
Each summer, Classical Tahoe brings together America’s leading classical musicians for a three-week festival of orchestra concerts on the campus of Sierra Nevada University in Incline Village, Nev. The Classical Tahoe orchestra includes virtuoso musicians from orchestras such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and others. Highlights include world premieres by Aldo Lopez-Gavilan and Chris Brubeck along with performances of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Gershwin, Bernstein, Copland and more. Now in its 9th season, Classical Tahoe’s 10-concert series delights audiences with its superb musicians, an intimate pop-up concert pavilion, educational programs, and majestic setting. The Classical Tahoe Music Institute and the Brubeck Jazz Summit engage musicians and audiences of all ages and abilities. Learn more at classicaltahoe.org.