Classical Tahoe fest adapts to chamber format, with audience, following maestro’s death to COVID-19

Classical Tahoe

Courtesy: Classical Tahoe.

Two San Francisco Symphony musicians are among the performers at Classical Tahoe’s annual summer music festival at Incline Village, Nevada. The festival, which has presented top-caliber orchestra shows for three weeks each summer since 2012, is switching formats to chamber orchestra performances that will be played in front of small live audiences as well as streamed live. Additionally, the performances will be turned into a documentary later this year.

The emotional return of the festival, which began this weekend, came following the death of maestro Joel Revzen, who battled COVID-19 through April and May before dying from complications on May 25.

“Ninety percent of the country does not know anyone who has COVID-19, and our story tells that in spades. We want to be an example for the music industry,” Classical Tahoe Executive Director Karen Craig said in a news release. “In these uncertain times, we have found a way to bring musicians back to work in a safe, socially distanced–yet socially connected–environment. We are proud to perform in Joel’s honor.”

Performers include San Francisco Symphony violinist Katie Kadarauch and cellist Peter Wyrick, as well as members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The chamber series will also include world-famous mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and renowned pianist and composer Jake Heggie. Laura Hamilton, Classical Tahoe concertmaster since the organization’s inception, stepped in as artist director during Revzen’s two-month illness and organized the festival. 

Each intermission-less concert will be followed by a “Meet the Musicians” question-and-answer session.

Performers and audience members will be subject to stringent precautions and safety measures. During the rehearsal and performance, people arriving at the lakeside venue have their temperature checked. Guests and musicians have specific arrival times to promote social distancing. They are asked to wear a mask or face shield (while not in their seat or performing). Guests are seated by household and spaced six feet apart. Staff escort attendees to their assigned seats, and sanitizer is provided on each table. The restroom is cleaned frequently, and attendees remain in their seats to ensure social distancing. After the performance, they are released by family units to promote social distancing. Additionally, chairs and stands are wiped down between each rehearsal and performance, and the entire space is cleaned regularly.

“Music doesn’t sound the same in a vacuum, and it is not the same without an audience,” Craig said. “Most musical events throughout the pandemic have been streamed without an audience present at all. With our safe, socially distanced event, our musicians will be responding to the energy of a small, intimate audience in order to bring forth the best performance possible. We want this year’s event to be a healing experience for all as we navigate our ‘new normal’ together.”

The festival runs through Aug. 16. In-person attendance is limited to 25 per concert, and is available only to season ticket holders. Performances will include up to 12 musicians. However, Classical Tahoe has partnered with PBS Reno to livestream many of the chamber performances. Performances will be streamed Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. The remaining online performances will be held Aug. 7 to 8 and 14 to 15. The livestream will also be available for two weeks at the festival’s website.

A subsequent six-episode PBS Reno documentary series will air later this year.

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