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A Well-Orchestrated Performance


It took some elaborate planning and extraordinary safety measures, but the Music Department hosted a porch concert featuring Hamilton musicians and members of the College Choir at the Babbitt Pavilion on Sept. 29.   

Heather Buchman, the Carolyn C. and David M. Ellis Distinguished Teaching Professor and director of Orchestra and Chamber Music, said members of the Music Department have been following research at UC Boulder on aerosols produced in playing wind instruments and singing. “One of the top recommendations from the study was that rehearsing and performing outdoors is much safer,” she said. “So, we wanted to take advantage of the limited window we had for an outdoor performance before it gets too cold.

“I’ve been charmed by stories of musicians giving socially distanced porch concerts — it’s become almost a genre unto itself! It suggests an informality that I thought would be refreshing. And it satisfies a need that people feel now for a live, in-person experience that the students really wanted to have,” she said.

The audience sat masked and distanced on the lawn as a “deconstructed orchestra” performed.  The jazz ensemble with Professor of Music Doc Woods, brass ensemble, woodwinds, and strings took the stage separately for their performances, allowing time between each set for each group to wipe down equipment and safely exit the stage. The new vocal ensemble, Hamilton Voices, was directed by new choir director Charlotte Botha.

Buchman said the Music Department made sure the performing groups were small enough to be able to have spacing of 9 feet by 6 feet for singers and wind instruments. “Everyone, including singers and wind instrumentalists, wore masks while performing, and I had bell covers made for all the wind instruments and even special masks for flutes,” she said.

Instrumentalists had their own music and stand, and any shared equipment was sanitized before and after use, following the protocols from the aerosol study. To stay under 50 people, no advertising was done prior to the concert.

“The feeling of the event was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced here,” Buchman concluded. “People were happy to be outside and to have a shared experience after more than six months of this pandemic. It was very moving to see the power of music and of live outdoor performance.”

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