VAN NUYS, Calif. — The performing arts landscape has shifted radically under the pandemic.
Although many are struggling, arts organizations have demonstrated an amazing resilience at a time when live performance continues to remain mostly on hold.
What You Need To Know
- Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Orchestra Europa connects with their audience by streaming live performances and educational content from an industrial warehouse in Van Nuys
- The orchestra helps usher graduating music students from the classroom to real-life performance situations
- Conductor Scott Ellaway leads the orchestra and also teaches between pieces
- For more information, visit opusyou.com and orchestraeuropa.org
For Orchestra Europa, under the direction of British-born conductor Scott Ellaway, connecting with an audience at this difficult time has them streaming live performances and educational content from an industrial warehouse in Van Nuys, sharing the space with a fleet of 18-wheeler trailer trucks. The juxtaposition of classical music in such a decidedly non-traditional venue itself has a sort of cheeky, avant-garde performance art vibe.
At a recent streaming event involving members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the group performed a range of works from J.S. Bach to Nico Muhly, and ending with the ever-popular Simon and Garfunkel anthem, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Between pieces, Ellaway taught the musical concepts behind many of the pieces as part of OpusYou, which provides music education content for K through 12 educators. Ellaway believes it's especially important at this time to keep music alive for students and teachers.
"Now their whole lives have been turned upside down, and they need really great content, great things to latch on to." said Ellaway. "As an ambassador for the arts, it is my job to excite people about music within education and how important that is, and that everybody should have access to the arts."
Another part of the mission of Orchestra Europa, operating under the banner of American OE Foundation, is to help usher graduating music students from the classroom to real-life performance situations to help prepare them for the professional world.
“Many of the great orchestras around the world just now are not playing, and so therefore, there are no jobs,” said Ellaway. “But these musicians are incredibly talented, and whatever the difficulties of now — their future, I'm sure, is secured, and the arts industry will recover, and they will ultimately go on to get great jobs.”
L.A. Master Chorale tenor Dermot Kiernan came to Southern California from Ireland and says it's a challenge for musicians to keep up their chops at a time when live performance has been put mostly on hold. He likes to sing old Irish folk songs, which remind him of friends and family back home.
“You don't have the energy that we all miss being in choirs and ensembles,” said Kiernan. “That energy is missed dearly.”
“I think being here in this warehouse facility sort of shows to me that there are no boundaries in terms of putting music in different boxes," said Ellaway. "This gives us a really great opportunity now to experiment not only in different locations, but also with different musical pieces, and I really embrace that.”
And if 2020 is any indication, embracing change might be the biggest challenge musicians face in the 21st century.