After launching its “Postcards From Spokane” series, which features videos of Northwest BachFest Artistic Director Zuill Bailey and two musicians performing in historic venues around town, last month, the team at Northwest BachFest has announced its latest virtual offering, “Across the Miles.”
The series will run from October through April and features virtual concerts from a variety of performers. Each video also will feature Bailey’s interview with the artist(s).
Bailey said he always intended to launch the videos, filmed by Hamilton Studios, this season. The coronavirus pandemic putting a temporary stop to live performances meant these virtual performances were more important than ever.
“We had no idea that we would be so visionary to have established ourselves, to unveil something that was already in the works,” Bailey said. “We’re incredibly excited to provide this wonderful experience, that people get to see what we’ve been working on for years.”
And the virtual performances won’t stop when live music is once again a regular part of our lives. Bailey envisions posted videos in the weeks between BachFest’s big in-person concerts.
“We’re calling it ‘Across the Miles’ this year because we are a lightning rod for the world’s celebrated artists, and whether they are in front of us live or bringing things to us from around the world, it’s a special experience,” he said.
The series kicks off with “The Intimate World of Cole Porter” hosted by Rob Kapilow of NPR’s “What Makes It Great?” This performance will be available Oct. 23-26.
“He’s one of the ultimate educators in the world who brings insight into what we’re hearing and then presents it in a way that we’ll never be able to unhear,” Bailey said. “It’s like a learning center for everyone, including adults.
“Then we chose Cole Porter to be his feature because it’s something that people know but don’t get to experience very much. He’ll go into the private life of Cole Porter to say why this stuff was created and what he was going through and make it very hands-on and personalized for us.”
From Nov. 20-23, viewers can enjoy Richard Dowling, who recently performed Scott Joplin’s music during Northwest BachFest, in “Beethoven, Chopin and More.” The pianist will bring the music of Beethoven, Chopin and Gottschalk to a virtual stage.
“He’s beloved wherever he goes,” Bailey said.
To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, pianist Adam Golka will perform three piano sonatas as part of “Celebrating Beethoven – Three Dreamy Sonatas for Piano,” which will be available Dec. 11-14.
“The Beethoven celebration, that is huge because that is a culmination of many years of our work where we wanted to celebrate the 250th birthday of Beethoven this year,” Bailey said.
On Jan. 16, viewers will be treated to a live performance featuring Juilliard graduate, opera singer and Met Opera outreach artist Shelly Watson. “The Singing Siren – Classical Cabaret” will be broadcast live from New York City at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re really taking advantage of the opportunity we have here with this technology,” Bailey said. “‘The Singing Siren’ will be live, and she will be able to know who she’s singing for. She’ll be able to see and be aware of her audience. It’s going to be very connected.”
Next in the series is “The Electrifying Duo Parnas – Rising Stars” featuring violinist Madelyn Parnas and cellist Cicely Parnas. Northwest BachFest patrons might recognize Parnas because of recent appearances with Cello-bration and Break of Reality. This performance will be available from March 19-22.
“What’s interesting about them, Madelyn and Cicely, is that they’re at the age that this technology and this new chapter is not daunting to them,” Bailey said. “It’s a part of their life, and it’s always been a part of their life, from social media to how to re-envision the future of what we do as artistic communicators. We’ve given them the carte-blanche platform to show us what is next and to take it 10 times higher.”
The series will close with “Chopin Re-Imagined and All Jazzed Up!” with pianist Matt Herskowitz, available April 23-26. Herskowitz returns to Northwest BachFest with original jazz arrangements of Chopin’s Etudes.
“You can’t believe it unless you’ve witnessed it,” Bailey said. “It really is flying and soaring when you hear him play. You can’t imagine that someone is capable of doing what he is capable of doing.”
Concerts will feature a virtual happy hour interview between Bailey and the performer(s). Bailey is excited to use these chats, most live but some pre-recorded, to learn how the musicians are doing, as well as what life has been like wherever the musicians are based.
“It’s a very special moment because I find most artists are very tied into expression, and the answers that we will get and that we do get are always unexpected,” he said. “They’re very rarely rehearsed, and that’s what I love. Expect the unexpected.”
Each video will be posted on the BachFest private YouTube channel. Ticketholders will be sent an access code when they buy a ticket. Passes are $20 per household per performance or $100 for a six-performance package. To purchase tickets, nwbachfest.com.
Next month, Bailey will be in Spokane to record more digital postcards and concerts, which will be shared with schools, hospitals and other community organizations that Northwest BachFest is currently unable to interact with because of social-distancing rules.
“I think it’s going to be a spectacular time,” Bailey said. “I am so invigorated by where we’re headed as an organization and that we were ready for this and that we’re unveiling it with style and grace.”
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