“Guest Blog” #2 – Marc Feldman

promised, may I present below the second in a series of "guest blog
posts" from our ASOL Fellow, Marc Feldman.  I second his invitation to
visit us at the hall this Friday and Saturday for what promises to be a
very interesting and exciting weekend of concerts, including offerings
to help our guests enjoy those performances in new and personally
relevant ways.


"Ritual or no ritual… that is the question.

I made many attempts at continuing my comments from “behind the
scenes…” somehow it just didn’t gell?! It seems difficult to get my
head around all that goes on at the PSO and then distill it into a few
insightful and pithy paragraphs.

So…What’s goin’ on?

the surface, the great luxurious ocean liner of the Pittsburgh Symphony
Orchestra is cruising, full speed through the season. Rehearsals have
started for this week’s Higdon-Mahler concert. The music is in place
and I can hear J. Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra through the speakers in my office. All is well and as it should be. Breathe easy, calm seas… Really?

hidden in the bowels of the S.S. PSO engine room; the board, staff and
musicians are sharing thoughts, questions are being asked, new
directions are being explored… on the lookout for potential icebergs,
too. A quiet alchemy is brewing in the crucible.


Last week I had the privilege of accompanying the PSO on tour to Penn State. The Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra performed a jewel of a concert on Thursday night and on Friday Penn State students had the inspiring experience of playing side by side with PSO musicians.

Thursday night’s concert ran the gamut of chamber orchestra expression. The interpretation of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll
was performed with a masterfully delicate hand; Handel, Saint-Saens and
Mozart were each played with wonderfully distinct colors and styles.
The next day performing with Penn State students was equally as exciting.

the course of the weekend, I had many impromptu discussions with
musicians; in the bus, backstage, waiting for the elevator and over
many glasses of good wine. Every musician voiced their attachment to
working with different community partners. They also voiced concerns
about the purity of their musical expression and worries about
straddling the role of world renowned orchestra and service to PSO
community partners.

this, I want to say – I am extremely impressed by the PSO’s
thoughtfulness and commitment. The level of performance on stage and
performance in the community is one of the best that I have seen in
twenty years in this profession. I don’t say that lightly. As some one
who has performed, I know how much energy and skill it takes to go from
teacher, to demonstrator, to narrator to performer. Sometimes in one
day! It is easy for a musician, on the inside, to forget about the
tremendous good they are doing for orchestral music by bringing it out
of this society’s isolation. To the PSO’s musicians I can say nothing
more than a profound bravo and thank you.

the end, these initiatives break down barriers, real or perceived,
between the orchestra and the public at large. Now, that brings me back
to my last blog.

Rituals= Barriers? =Isolation? =Stuffy image? =You have to be
knowledgeable to like it? Etc… I am sure that you can think of many
other misconceptions concerning classical music.

some of our cherished traditions actually keeping people from enjoying
orchestral music? This has been at the heart of debate at many
orchestras for years now. And – yet, we always seem to come back to the
same parameters. To put it a little facetiously;

[the orchestra] are “guardians of the flame” and we are coming down off
our pedestal to impart our infinite knowledge on you [the audience].

An exaggeration? Unfortunately, not always. Hurdles remain…

The PSO is inventing news ways to bring down the walls and help traditions evolve.

This week you get to participate in the fruit of their reflection. The “Orchestral Showcase.”

Placed around your wonderful Heinz Hall in three Pre-Concert Rooms:

Stage – PSO Percussion section with Jennifer Higdon

Grand Lobby – PSO String Quintet

Grand Tier Foyer – PSO Woodwinds

take you inside the music. You’ll get to feel the rhythms and harmonies
up close and hear things that make you an active listener, some might
even say participant, in the performance. Understanding the music from
within and with your own perspective on the composition, radically
changes how to approach music. If anything, by attending the Orchestra
Showcase your concert experience won’t be the same as usual. And that
is in itself a huge accomplishment.

We will rotate the rooms so that you get the full experience– two sessions of 10 minutes each: 7:00 – 7:10 & 7:20 – 7:30 pm.

Then, a Jennifer Higdon video will be presented at the beginning of the concert. The video is also currently on our website.

For the second half of the program, after all that musical exertion, settle in and let Mahler’s achingly beautiful Song of the Earth wash over you, or better yet, into you. No (active) participation necessary.

One last note, please give a extra round of applause for Pittsburgh’s own tenor, Jason Collins, who has stepped in to sing Song of the Earth at the last minute.

See you after the concert… Marc Feldman"

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