Editorial from the editor

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: frFrancais (French)

This edition of La Scena Musicale is unique in the history of the publication in offering no coverage of live performance with an audience. This does not mean there is nothing to write about. Performing arts groups have offered their followers much online programming, whether archival or freshly produced. We have attempted to survey these endeavours and isolate some of the most compelling. Traditional recording is still with us. We have reviews of several interesting releases and a classic selection dedicated to the by-no-means-forgotten 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Our cover story focuses on the duo of Alain Lefèvre and Hélène Mercier and the dedication of these pianists (in the case of Mercier, recently acquired) to the music of the prodigal Quebec composer André Mathieu. Their new recording on the Warner label promises to shine a new light on works that are better known in orchestrated versions of dubious authenticity.

Whether the show will go on, and when, remain open questions in July. Many presenters have shuttered the first half of 2020-21, including the Canadian Opera Company. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has cancelled the entire season in its original form. The Metropolitan Opera plans a restart on New Year’s Eve. The Opéra de Montréal promises a chamber-scale double bill (La voix humaine and L’hiver attend beaucoup) sometime in the fall but has not finalized the dates or location.

Summer, it appears, is a write-off as far as live performance is concerned. The Lanaudière Festival is broadcasting historical performances. Also on the airwaves is the Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM) with its Écouter québécois.e series of broadcasts. The Orchestre Métropolitain under Yannick Nézet-Séguin is spending the summer recording Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 1 to 8 in Bourgie Hall (another think-positive institution) for internet dissemination.

Live performance in the fall is possible. A few presenters in Canada have capitulated, but the OM has left its subscription season intact, as has the Ladies’ Morning Musical Club. We hope these organizations see their fortitude rewarded. The OCM opens in November with As One, a chamber opera (music by Laura Kaminsky) presented with string quartet at the Centaur Theatre. It will be performed online if necessary. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra at press time remains inscrutable. Never having announced a season, the orchestra can start with a fresh slate. Without, of course, the services of soon-to-be former music director Kent Nagano.

While the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of an SMCQ concert celebrating alcides lanza, the Argentine-born Montreal modernist nevertheless turned 90, lower-case letters intact. We publish an interview in recognition of the landmark. Dang Thai Son likewise had a benefit recital for Camp Tutti scratched. This internationally recognized pianist and pedagogue relates some news about his teaching schedule and discusses the prospect of teaching in Boston and Cleveland in part from his home in Montreal.

Our COVID-19 coverage occupies more than 30 pages. Online instruction is a major theme in this issue, as music schools plan for a fall semester of limited in-person contact or no contact at all. We examine the back-to-school plans. Some teachers are looking on the bright side of digital preparation. A submission by the conductor Stéphane Laforest takes a critical view of the common demand that performing artists “reinvent themselves” in response to the pandemic. Their job, he argues, will be, as always, to perform to the best of their ability.

That “best,” of course, cannot come at the expense of safety. You will find articles concerning distancing, hygiene practices and masks as they relate to music. The viability of choral singing is in the air. A feature written early in the crisis stands in contrast to a spirited response by choral directors who say the fears are exaggerated.

On a sadder note, there are obituaries of jazz performers who succumbed to COVID-19 and a tribute the great violinist Ida Haendel, whose death in her 90s does not seem to have been related the pandemic.

The return of audiences to the concert hall is a subject on many minds. Who will come back and when? Perhaps the best way to discover this is to ask concertgoers themselves. This issue contains a survey, which we invite all readers to fill out and submit, funded with a modest grant from the Foundation of Greater Montreal.

Recent protests in response to the murder of George Floyd have created a global movement against racism. We plan a special section on Race and the Arts in our February 2021 issue.

Donation and Subscription Drive

La Scena was in production of our April/May issue when the pandemic hit. We had to postpone this and our annual national summer festival issue. Although we are able to bring back most of our staff through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the combined loss of revenues of those two issues is $80,000. This comes at a time when La Scena Musicale was headed for our best season in the last seven years. The average number of pages was at an all-time high at 80. Advertising sales were 5% higher than the previous year. We recently switched printers, which allowed us to purchase our own paper at advantageous prices (starting with the February/March 2020 issue), saving 15% to 20% on the total cost of printing and setting us up for a strong spring and summer.

Since our annual budget depends largely on advertising revenues (about 70%, most of which are related to concerts), we hope you will consider supporting our magazine through a donation or a subscription.

Corona Serenades

In April, La Scena took a proactive step also in devising and promoting Corona Serenades (co-founded by Adrian Rodriguez and Wah Keung Chan), a program that brings personalized vocal cheer over the internet to those in isolation. The service is free for frontline health workers, those infected by the coronavirus and seniors 70-plus. We have also presented seven virtual concerts and La Scena Tête-à-tête interviews live on Facebook and YouTube; see the ad on the back cover for upcoming interviews. We think you will enjoy the positive testimonials offered by a selection of the gifted singers who are participating in the initiative. You will learn about their favourite operas and their creative approaches to using time that is now available in abundance.

Will these singers be back at work in 2021? This question, like many others lingering in the ether, will not likely be resolved before September. This is when LSM returns with continuing coverage of COVID-19 and the arts, we hope with better news for all. For ongoing coverage, please visit our website at mySCENA.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: frFrancais (French)

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