The Chamber Music Ensembles of Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra continue to reach out to the community
Together we can still present and perform
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Pittsburgh Foundation awards special Covid-19 response grants
Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra is a recipient of a grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation in response to numerous concert cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In April and May, PFO events at Stage AE, Pittsburgh Opera, Norwin Schools, Zelionople Library and The Frick Pittsburgh were cancelled and all summer dates are on hold.
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We Believe Music and Art are essential to recovery from the Covid 19 pandemic
Artists are connectors, and in this time of isolation, we need art more than ever. Artists have been community builders in good and bad times. We understand rhythm, sound, silence. Isolation is an experience artists have always lived with. Now it is our time to help those that feel it as an unknown. Artists have helped build the future in every century. This is a time for rebuilding, imagination, alternatives, collaborating in new ways. Artists use what is available, on hand, whatever will do the job. Creativity is in our DNA. We can comfort, inspire, or show pathways to our deeper selves. Artists are witnesses that reveal life through their art and evoke reassurance to many that want to express themselves. Artists reframe the world and reshape our vision of the future. In this unprecedented time, Art is not only relevant, it is essential. Please donate to small arts organizations like Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra that are actively connecting the community in this time of crisis.
Musicians adapting during isolation
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Paula Tuttle teaches via FaceTime and Zoom to her students at Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh. Her schedule is very different from the usual Thursday Friday and Saturday back to back studio lessons. Instead she teaches Monday through Friday and leaves a break between lessons to recharge. "You get exhausted more quickly teaching on Skype, Zoom and FaceTime. It's now called Zoom Fatigue. We focus so much on a single avenue of communication, that we need to rest between sessions. On a positive note, there are some benefits to remote teaching-like a much shorter commute!" Paula looks forward to performing again with the Zaffiro, Diamante and Quartz ensembles as well as going back hopefully in the near future to her position in the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra. In the mean time all the chamber ensembles of the Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra are exploring ways to send concerts out to the community via internet platforms.
Louise Farbman teaches 25 violin and viola students via Zoom in her Mt. Lebanon home. This has been going well although she misses being able to play duets with her students. "Because of the slight lag time between devices, playing together doesn't work well on internet platforms like Zoom. Instead, we send videos back and forth of duet parts so we play along with each other." Louise usually plays with the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Orchestras as well as the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Light Opera Orchestra. She is also the viola coach for the Pittsburgh Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. All of these groups' concerts have been cancelled due to Covid-19 and the future of all of their concerts is uncertain. In spite of these uncertainties,Louise practices new repertoire that the Quartz Quartet has chosen for future concerts as part of her daily routine!
Tina Faigen teaches piano lessons in her home studio to her students enrolled at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. "Teaching piano remotely presents new challenges because of the piano's vast range and its complexity of sound. We are creating new ways to communicate effectively about the music, involving more dialogue, prerecorded play-throughs, and the use of whatever technological equipment students have available in their home environment. Student recitals have shifted to online events, some prerecorded, some on Zoom, allowing them to continue completing their goals." As a member of Zaffiro Trio, Tina is scheduled to perform four performances in June, including one at a senior residence where her mother and aunt reside. Zaffiro will strive to reach these community venues with live or virtual means, perhaps with streamed video concerts of programs performed recently by Zaffiro Trio. The term world pandemic is a family experience for the Faigens. Tina's family of musicians perform world wide, many of them reside in Europe. Tina's sister, brother-in-law and niece are professional string players in Sweden, teaching remotely and experiencing orchestra cancellations. Tina's brother, a pianist and professor of music in Germany, is also faced with the challenge of teaching his university students online. "It's a given that we all keep in touch the same way everyone else does these days, via technology. Now it doesn't matter if your sister is across the city or across an ocean. We only see each other online."
Mary Beth Malek spends her week planting seasonal vegetables, teaching 15 students via FaceTime, and sewing masks for the community. "I've made 47 masks so far, and have run out of materials. Having numerous gardens and a chicken coop has been a blessing, keeping me busy, and I find I'm much further ahead this Spring. Most summers with my busy schedule with Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Civic Light Opera and our chamber music concerts, I can't keep up with the gardening, but this year I'm actually expanding the amount of planting and farming. We'll be eating out of our own garden. And now that my daughter moved back to finish her sophmore college year on line and work as a personal shopper for community members that can't go out, we utilize the garden and eggs from the chicken coop even more than last summer. "
Ellen-Maria Willis also sews masks for her family, church members and community. "Keeping in touch with our church community has been very important this past month. We all want to help each other and try to stay connected despite the isolation." Her two daughters are home, one finishing her senior year of high school, the other her college semester. "Our younger daughter's senior recital will probably be on Zoom or have a few audience members and streamed on Zoom too. Since we can't expect to use any musicians outside the family, we are all performing. So we have rehearsals of various ensembles in our house - voice and piano, piano and violin, voice duets, for which I am arranging an accompaniment on marimba. The older daughter has written a piece for voice, piano, violin and marimba.The music room is in great demand!" In lieu of quartet rehearsals, Ellen-Maria joins the Quartz members in virtual collaborations that Ellen-Maria's husband syncs in video formats. "I guess we all have a learning curve, whether it's getting an academic semester completed or just adjusting to being together 24/7. I do a lot of sewing, mostly clothing, but I've sewn a lot of masks and I finished a quilt that I've been planning for a year. There is no shortage of projects in the Willis household!"
Cinco de Mayo streamed
Diamante Trio with Lilly Abreu
Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, West Virginia streamed the archived concert by the Diamante Trio with Lilly Abreu for their "Lunch with Books" series on Tuesday May 5, 2020.
Juan self-quarantines after returning from Florida to his home in Pittsburgh
Juan Jaramillo plays with the Sarasota Opera and Sarasota Orchestra in the winter months and always returns to Pittsburgh to finish the season. His return this time included safety measures because he crossed several states on his drive back to Pittsburgh. "The last few performances were cancelled in Florida, and even though most of the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Ballet and Wheeling Symphony were looking at the possibility of cancellation, it still made sense to return to our home to shelter in place. My girlfriend and I travelled several days in a car and we were extremely careful, staying with friends along the way, and of course staying in for 14 days when we finally arrived home." This video by Juan tells a bit of the story of his 14 day self-quarantine:
Juan Jaramillo, Diamante Orchestra Concertmaster
Quartz Quartet members collaborating through internet platforms
Left to right, Paula, Ellen-Maria, Katie and Louise use their cell phones to play together in this movement by Benjamin Britten. "We are experimenting with various platforms. We find the difference in devices makes frame speeds vary by miniscule amounts." says cellist Paula Tuttle. "We were trying an app that wouldn't comply with my Android phone, so we are venturing into less user friendly applications, but we have at least had the ability to see all of us playing together" adds violist Louise Farbman.
Diamante Trio experiments with isolation performance strategeies
Juan Jaramillo, violinist top, collaborates with Paula Tuttle, cellist and Mary Beth Malek, clarinetist on this arrangement made for them by Ralph Guzzi "Solemente". The arrangement with soprano can be heard on their CD "No More Blues"