With global lockdowns in place to control the coronavirus outbreak, the famed New York Philharmonic had their last live performance back in March. Since then, the only avenue has been the internet, from streaming live performances on Facebook to stitching together individual videos for a collective of virtual shows. However, the orchestra made a comeback to stage pop-up concerts during the last weekend of August, reported Joshua Barone of The New York Times.
The NY Phil Bandwagon, conceived by opera singer Anthony Roth Costanzo and hosted out of a Ford F-250 pickup truck began its ‘world premiere’ at the Betty Carter Park in Brooklyn on 28 August. The musicians wore Philharmonic red shirts and black face masks to complement their red, white and black colored truck (whose gas cap cover reads “PHIL ‘ER UP”) and performed Carlos Simon’s Loop.
“In this moment of social change, we’re exploring new ways together… to connect to people and to realize that we have to reinvent the concert-going ritual,” Roth Costanzo told AFP. While virtual concerts and online streamed performances offered a short-term solution, violist Cong Wu shared that they are “not the same.” Hence, each weekend until mid-October, the NY Phil Bandwagon will drive to three undisclosed locations— to prevent mass gatherings— to perform chamber works and recently commissioned premieres.
Before each performance, crew members set up lights, microphones, and sanitize the stands and seats with help from Roth Costanzo and the Philharmonic’s personnel manager, DeAnne Eisch. With Covid-19 tests done in advance, each performer undergoes a temperature check upon arrival. The orchestra’s vice president for external affairs, Adam Crane described them as being inside “a test bubble” wherein only those inside the “bubble” can perform, touch any equipment or ride in the truck.
However, unlike the New York Philharmonic’s traditional classical concerts, the NY Phil Bandwagon encourages its spectators to applaud, dance, interact between performances, and record videos to share on social media while maintaining required social distances. Additionally, each performance is attended by Catherine Gray, co-president of the League of Women Voters, who helps the people gathering at each stop to register to vote.
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