By Carol Vaughn —
The Orchestra of the Eastern Shore is among arts organizations that have had to adjust to life in the time of coronavirus.
The orchestra, founded in 1999, is a chamber orchestra concentrating on classical music.
Its musicians are community members.
Paul Kim has been music director since 2014.
After a state of emergency was declared in Virginia in March due to the pandemic, the orchestra had to cancel its spring concerts.
Since then, the musicians have found ways to play safely together — although that includes only the stringed instruments for now. Practices are being held outdoors or in a large room at Broadwater Academy.
The orchestra will perform four pieces in an outdoor, socially distanced concert Saturday, Oct. 17, at 4 p.m., on the grounds of ESO Arts Center, 15293 King St., Belle Haven.
The rain date is Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m.
The program, entitled Music Through the Centuries, will include pieces representing four centuries:
18th – Concerto Grosso in G Major, Op 6, No. 1 by G.F. Handel
19th – Andante Cantabile, of P.I. Tchaikovsky
20th – Psalm and Fugue by Alan Hovhaness
21st – Song without Words by Paul Sanho Kim.
Virginia Symphony Orchestra Assistant Principal Cellist Rebecca Gilmore, who was scheduled to solo at the cancelled May concert, will be the cello soloist for the Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile.
Attendees must provide their own chairs or blanket, wear a mask, and maintain social distancing while at the concert.
The concert is free, but donations are welcome.
Kim’s work, “Song without Words,” will have its world premiere performance at the concert.
The orchestra board felt it would be best to limit the orchestra to strings for the time being to minimize risk, Kim said.
“It is easy for string players to play while wearing a mask. Wind and brass players can’t wear a mask and play at the same time. It is also difficult to contain the spread of aerosol particles, which escape wind and brass instruments through the bell at the end and through keyholes.”
“We wait impatiently for an end to the pandemic so we can invite our valued wind and brass colleagues to rejoin us,” Kim added.
Practices, formerly held at Cokesbury Church in Onancock, were moved to a larger space, or even outdoors in good weather, to allow musicians to stay at least six feet away from each other.
“We are so thankful to Broadwater Academy for allowing us to rehearse in a larger room on their premises,” Kim said, adding, “For initial rehearsals, the weather was nice enough that we could even rehearse outside, at least until sundown — which added more peace of mind.”
Playing music together while staying six feet apart is a challenge, Kim said.
“It is a challenge to hear across a broader area and play as a unified and blended ensemble.”
Additionally, rehearsals are kept shorter than normal to limit exposure, with longer breaks to allow air to exchange in the practice room.
“Spending time together during a pandemic of course increases risk, and we are all conscious of that to some degree. But we have all been cooperative about mask wearing and distancing, and we are grateful just to make music together again,” Kim said.
The music chosen for the October program “speaks to the way music has provided comfort and joy to listeners across time,” Kim said.
He went on to explain that idea in more detail.
“This music connects us as performers and listeners to people we have never met — in periods and places we have never known. It binds us during a time when human connection is so difficult. The Tchaikovsky is solemn and deep — but also full of hope and beauty. We are so grateful to have Rebecca Gilmore joining us with her immense talent and musical passion. The Hovhaness, written during World War II, is at times meditative and at other times cathartic.”
Kim’s composition, “Song without Words,” was written in April, “while we were mostly all homeridden.”
It “is a reflection of the pandemic and the many mixed feelings we’ve all been feeling during this time of uncertainty and discord,” he said, adding, “The melodic lines are individually tumultuous and unsettled, yet interconnected and dependent upon the others — much like our current lives.”
Music can play a role in coping during unsettled times like the current period, according to Kim.
“Music can at times reflect our starkest realities, but it can also give voice to our most fervent hopes. It helps us accept and come to terms with our current state, with all its weaknesses, but it also helps us yearn and strive for a better future,” Kim said, adding, “A musical performance brings everyone for a brief moment in complete synchronization with each other, regardless of where we came from or where we’re going later. That solidarity, that community, that sense of relationship and wholeness… it can be refreshing at any time — but especially during a pandemic.”
Kim wants to thank everyone who has supported the orchestra over the years.
“We missed seeing everyone in the spring and hope this upcoming event can help us preserve the strong sense of community that we so cherish,” he said.
More information about the orchestra is at http://www.orchestraes.org