To call the past year a strange one for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) would be an incredible understatement. But, with a heap of innovation and a hand from the Star, it was at least a musical one.
Musical Moments, a weekly video series celebrating the artists and music of the TSO in collaboration with the Star, celebrated its one-year anniversary this week.
In commemoration of the occasion, TSO Concertmaster Jonathan Crow and pianist Philip Chiu recorded the “Andantino” by Fritz Kreisler on the stage of the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City on March 15, 2021.
TSO Concertmaster and pianist Philip Chiu recorded the “Andantino” by Fritz Kreisler on the stage of the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City on March 15, 2021.
Every week, thousands of viewers tuned in to watch TSO musicians playing from home or in their communities. With concert halls emptied by COVID-19, the sessions allowed artists to connect with listeners and spread a bit of joy from afar.
“Playing the violin in your living room by yourself without an audience, only goes so far,” said Matthew Loden, CEO of the TSO. “Anytime we can find a chance to give the gift of music and communicate with people that way, it’s sustaining.”
Loden told the Star he felt the TSO could provide a sense of comfort for people during an isolating time as music connects people universally.
“Someone can click on a Musical Moment and not speak English or have a distant relationship to orchestra music,” Loden said. “Yet they can both have an intimate experience which puts a smile on their face, or gives them a window into the world of a percussion player.”
Star Visuals Editor Taras Slawnych conceived the idea for the Musical Moments series in April of 2020, to support the arts industry in COVID-19.
“It was all to support the arts and to give the Toronto Star audience, our readers and subscribers, something else,” he said. “Something to enjoy, bringing some music into their life.”
The series also helped the musicians involved. Crow says it gave him an opportunity to continue performing and doing what he loves.
“It’s difficult to just keep practising, not knowing when you’ll be able to perform again,” Crow said.
“But this opportunity sort of gave me my life back, I was able to start preparing and practising, knowing I can still be a violinist and reach audiences again,” he added.
The TSO got close to a full performance in December. The last Musical Moment of 2020 saw 10 physically-distanced musicians play in the Star newsroom.
Crow led that performance and called the experience of playing in an empty newsroom “surreal.”
“To see a place that was once so busy and bustling with people, made me realize this pandemic has affected industries across the board,” Crow said.
So far, the Star and the TSO have produced 49 Musical Moments with 65 different musicians involved.
Loden says the TSO has no plans of stopping, as the series plans to continue throughout the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on a monthly basis.