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Columbia Orchestra, Candlelight Concert Society adapt and struggle during coronavirus pandemic

On Saturday, Aug. 15, Jason Love, music director of the Columbia Orchestra, will discuss Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony live with fellow orchestra members, soloists and choristers before showing a previously recorded performance of the piece by the orchestra.
On Saturday, Aug. 15, Jason Love, music director of the Columbia Orchestra, will discuss Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony live with fellow orchestra members, soloists and choristers before showing a previously recorded performance of the piece by the orchestra. (submitted photo)

On Saturday, Jason Love, music director of the Columbia Orchestra, will discuss Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony live with fellow orchestra members, soloists and choristers before showing a previously recorded performance of the piece by the orchestra. The event marks the final performance in the group’s three-part Summer Series: At Home season, a mix of prerecorded orchestra performances, live performances and live discussions offered online.

“It is a great way to experience something close to the concert experience while being safe at home,” Love said.

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Candlelight Concert Society, a concert presenter of chamber music that brings a mix of international and national performers to Howard County, is also planning to offer its upcoming 2020-21 concert series online, beginning with a live performance by pianist Maxim Lando on Sept. 26 and continuing with a mix of recorded and live performances and live chats through the remainder of the year, according to Irina Kaplan Lande, artistic director.

“We know how much great music is needed,” Lande said. “Artists may be playing to a camera, but we need musical performing arts in our lives.”

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While it might not be possible to hear classical music performed live in a concert hall, both organizations are working diligently to offer classical music for both their audiences and performers to enjoy.

“People are thirsty for art,” Love said. “We’ll be creative and find things to do.”

To attract and entertain its audience, the Columbia Orchestra offers numerous activities on its website, from Backstage Peeks, which features recorded performances, to educational blogs and an “Ask Jason” feature, in which Love answers questions weekly.

“A lot of people have had some very interesting questions about classical music,” Love said. “I demystify it and people can appreciate it more. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Love has also enjoyed talking with the various performers and playing with them for the summer series, which has attracted a fair number of views, he said.

“The numbers on Facebook watching live remains ... around 1,500 views,” Love said.

The orchestra is hoping to perform new material on the internet over the next few months and is looking into doing a podcast.

While Candlelight Concert Series canceled the remainder of its 2019-20 concert series, it was able to collaborate with WBJC, Baltimore’s classical concert radio station, to feature the three canceled acts performing pieces from their planned programs on the original scheduled dates.

“We were lucky and worked hard on that,” Lande said. “Our listeners got to hear the music and people in Maryland, too. It was bigger than what we could do in a hall with the capacity of 400.”

The Candlelight Concert Society also hopes to continue its community and outreach programs by working with local schools, assisted-living facilities and other organizations by creating online platforms.

“Whatever media schools prefer,” Lande said. “Kids are keen on working in media and technology. We are very committed.”

Neither Love nor Lande see live performances resuming in 2020. Both groups hope to resume live performances in 2021, though they both believe things will be different.

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“We will follow the guideline of the county and college and hopefully we will be able to have some audience,” Lande said. “It might be a combination of in-person and internet stream. We do have a planned full season.”

The Columbia Orchestra has a full concert season planned for 2021, as well, and will follow the various guidelines in determining whether to perform before an audience.

“We have 10 different scenarios and the 11th one we’ll actually do,” said Love, adding that the group is looking into its various venues — the Jim Rouse Theater, the Chrysalis Amphitheater and its rehearsal hall at the Gathering Place — for safe performances.

All online performances presented by both Candlelight Concert Society and Columbia Orchestra are free. The Columbia Orchestra relies on grants, donations and ticket sales for its programs. Its summer concert series was sponsored by Baltimore-Washington Financial Advisors. With no income from ticket sales or subscriptions, funding is tight for Candlelight Concert Society.

“This is a very challenging and trying time for us and we are working hard to survive through this time,” Lande said. “We need support. We are hoping our folks will set up.”

A fundraising event will also be held in September, Lande said. “We are committed to continue delivering performances and we need help for that.”

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