December calendar

Classical performances in and around Richmond, with selected events elsewhere in Virginia and the Washington area. Program information, provided by presenters, is updated as details become available. Adult ticket prices are listed; senior, student/youth, military, group and other discounts may be offered.

Each listing includes primary Covid-19 safety protocols for the event. Contact presenters or venues for detailed requirements.

Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kordzaia conducting
Matthew Robinson, violin
Rilyn McKallip, flute

program TBA
free (ticket registration required)
masks required
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu/events

Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Young Concert Artists:
William Socolof, bass-baritone
pianist TBA
Ibert: “Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte”
Robert Owens: “Die Nacht,” “Morgendämmerung”
Schubert: “Schwanengesang”
(selections)
Leaha Maria Villareal: “Crossing the Rubicon”
Debussy: “Trois chansons de Bilitis”
Joel Engel: “Jewish Folksongs”
(selections)
Mahler: “Urlicht”
Matthew Aucoin: “Three Whitman Songs”

$20-$40
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 2 (7:30 p.m.)
Ferguson Arts Center, Christopher Newport University, Newport News
Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.)
Chrysler Hall, 215 St. Paul’s Boulevard, Norfolk
Dec. 5 (7:30 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Eric Jacobsen conducting
Branford Marsalis, saxophone

Mozart: “The Marriage of Figaro” Overture
Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor (Resurrection) – “Urlicht”
Sally Beamish: “Under the Wing of the Rock”
Mahler: “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D major
Beamish: “The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone”
(Dec. 5 only)
$25-$110 (Dec. 3 sold out)
masks required
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 2 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 3 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 4 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda conducting

Mozart: “The Magic Flute” Overture
Mozart: Concert aria, “Per questa bella mano”

Christian Simmons, bass
Robert Oppelt, double-bass

Mozart: “La Clemenza di Tito” Overture
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622

Lin Ma, clarinet
Mozart: Cantata, “Eine kleine Freimauer”
Mozart: Requiem
Mozart: “Ave verum corpus”

Suzannah Waddington, soprano
Hannah Shea, mezzo-soprano
Duke Kim & Matthew Pearce, tenors
Christian Simmons, bass
University of Maryland Concert Choir
Bill Barclay, narrator

$29-$104
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 3 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 5 (2 p.m.)
Firehouse Theater, 1609 W. Broad St., Richmond
RVA Baroque
P.J. Freebourn directing

Niccolo & Raphael Seligmann: “Julie Monster: a Queer Baroque Opera” (premiere)
Jaylin Brown (Julie)
Bryanna Batts (Boy Soprano, Wayfarer, announcer)
James Brown (King, waiter)
Diana Carver (Priest)
Valerie Chinn (Madame Bortigali, Messenger [Jeannne], entertainer)
Roisin Clark (Thevenard, Arrogant 3)
Keydron Dunn (Gaultier, Valmalette, Constable 2)
Earl Fleming (Christmas Snow) (Party Dowager Empress)
Jarene Fleming (Priest’s Conscience, landlady)
Erin Foster (Arrogant Man, Constable 1, Jacquet)
Tim Herrmann (Corbetta, Julie’s Maid, entertainer, Arrogant 2, bodyguard)
James Lynn (Dr. Bortigali, Entertainer 2)
Levi Meerovich (Serannes)
Lindy Porkorny (Missy)
Kenneth Putnam (Buzzy)
Paige Reisenfeld (Cecilia)
DeVonté Saunders (Luynes)
Margaret Taylor-Woods (Marie-Therese
)
live performances sold out
proof of vaccination & masks required
$30 (online live stream)
(804) 355-2001 (Firehouse Theater)
http://rvabaroque.org/julie%2C-monster

Dec. 3 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Dec. 11 (8 p.m.)
University Baptist Church, 1223 W. Main St., Charlottesville
Virginia Glee Club
Frank Albinder directing
Daniel Hine, piano

81st annual Christmas Concerts
program TBA

$5-$20
masks required
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Dec. 3 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 4 (3:30 p.m.)
University Chapel, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Virginia Women’s Chorus
Katherine (“KaeRenae”) Mitchell directing
Anastasia Jellison, harp

38th annual Candlelight Concerts
Britten: “A Ceremony of Carols”
other seasonal works TBA

$7-$20
masks required
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.)
Salem Civic Center, 1001 Roanoke Boulevard
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir
David Stewart Wiley conducting

other artists TBA
“Holiday Pops Spectacular”
program TBA

$32-$65
masks required
(540) 343-9127
http://rso.com

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting

“A Baroque Holiday”
Handel: “Messiah”
(excerpts)
Mozart: “Ave verum corpus”
Vivaldi: Gloria
(excerpt)
J.S. Bach: Cantata, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben,” BWV 147
(excerpt)
Richmond Symphony Chorus
Antonio Rosetti: Concerto for horn, trombone and orchestra
Dominic Rotella, French horn
Evan Williams, trombone

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 (excerpts)
Handel: “Water Music”
(excerpt)
Handel: “Royal Fireworks Music”
(excerpt)
Gluck: “Orfeo ed Euridice” – “Dance of the Blessed Spirits”
(Felix Mottl arrangement)
proof of vaccination or negative test result, photo ID & masks required
$18-$54
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Dec. 4 (1:30 & 3 p.m.)
Dec. 5 (1:30 & 3 p.m.)
Kimball Theatre, Merchants Square, Williamsburg
Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra
Erin Freeman conducting

Holiday Pops
program TBA

$15-$30
masks required
(757) 229-9857
http://williamsburgsymphony.org

Dec. 4 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 5 (3:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia
UVa University Singers
Michael Slon conducting

“Family Holiday Concerts”
works TBA by Handel, Corelli, Vaughan Williams, Leroy Anderson, others

$10-$47
masks required
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Academy of the Arts Historic Theater, 600 Main St., Lynchburg
Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra
David Glover conducting

guest artists TBA
“Happy Holidays”
program TBA

$6-$75
masks required
(434) 846-8499
http://lynchburgsymphony.org/events-concerts/

Dec. 4 (3:30 p.m.)
Merchant Hall, Hylton Arts Center, George Mason University, Manassas
Manassas Symphony Orchestra
James Villani conducting

“Family Concert: Color and Light”
Charles Tomlinson Griffes: Poem

Irina Lin, flute
Jonathan Romeo: “Light”
music and light-show finale
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
$20
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://hyltoncenter.org

Dec. 5 (2:30 p.m.)
River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads, Richmond
Raymond & Elizabeth Chenault, organ duo
Christmas-themed program TBA
free (tickets required)
masks recommended
online live stream accessible
(804) 288-1131
http://rrcb.org

Dec. 6 (11 a.m.)
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Laurel Street at Floyd Avenue, Richmond
Forgotten Clefs: Renaissance Wind Ensemble
“Prophecy|Nativity”
texts from Part 1 (Christmas portion) of Handel’s “Messiah” with works by 16th-century composers TBA
audience sing-along of Christmas carols

free (ticket registration required)
masks recommended
(804) 359-5651
http://richmondcathedral.org

Dec. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Kaufman Theater, Chrysler Museum of Art, 1 Memorial Place, Norfolk
Feldman Chamber Music Society:
Horszowski Trio
Dvořák: Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (“Dumky”)
Debussy: Piano Trio in G major
Arno Babajanian: Piano Trio in F sharp minor

$25
masks required
(757) 552-1630
http://feldmanchambermusic.org

Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
Williamsburg Library Theater, 515 Scotland St.
Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg:
Horszowski Trio
Dvořák: Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (“Dumky”)
Debussy: Piano Trio in G major
Arno Babajanian: Piano Trio in F sharp minor

$25
masks required
(757) 741-3300 (Williamsburg Regional Library)
http://chambermusicwilliamsburg.org

Dec. 7 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Washington National Opera Marian Anderson Vocal Award recital:
Frederick Ballentine, tenor
Kunal Lahiry, piano

program TBA
$39
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 8 (7:30 p.m.)
The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Emil de Cou conducting
Dupont Brass

“Ugly Sweater Holiday Concert”
program TBA

$15-$30
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(202) 467-4600 (Instant Charge)
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 9 (7:30 p.m.)
Dec. 11 (2 & 8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra Pops
Steven Reineke conducting
Ingrid Michaelson, guest star

“Notes of Honor: NSO Salutes the Military”
holiday program TBA

$29-$119
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 10 (6 p.m.)
Meadow Park, Meadow Street at Park Avenue, Richmond
Fan Grande Illumination & Garden Tour:
Greater Richmond Children’s Choirs
Crystal Jonkman directing

holiday program TBA
free
masks recommended
(804) 201-1894
http://www.grcchoir.org/performances

Dec. 10 (7 p.m.)
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Laurel Street at Floyd Avenue, Richmond
Cathedral Schola Cantorum
Daniel Sañez, organ & direction

Advent Lessons and Carols
free (registration required)
donations benefit Ryan White Program of Capital Area Health Network
masks recommended
(804) 359-5651
http://richmondcathedral.org

Dec. 10 (7:30 p.m.)
Grace Baptist Church, 4200 Dover Road, Richmond
Dec. 12 (3 p.m.)
Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church, 201 Henry St., Ashland
Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale
Ryan Tibbetts directing
Daniel Stipe, organ

Handel: “Messiah” – Part 1 (Christmas portion)
Cecilia McDowall: “A Winter’s Night”
$15
masks recommended
(800) 838-3006
http://cvamc.org

Dec. 10 (7:30 p.m.)
Ferguson Arts Center, Christopher Newport University, Newport News
Dec. 11 (7:30 p.m.)
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk
Dec. 12 (7 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony Orchestra Pops & Chorus
Robert Shoup conducting

Holiday Pops
program TBA

$25-$110
masks required
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 10 (7 p.m.)
Cave Spring United Methodist Church, 4205 Hazel Drive, Roanoke
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra brass
Jay Crone directing

“Holiday Brass”
program TBA

$35-$52
masks required
(540) 343-9127
http://rso.com

Dec. 10 (8 p.m.)
Merchant Hall, Hylton Arts Center, George Mason University, Manassas
American Festival Pops Orchestra
Anthony Maiello conducting

“Holiday Pops: Songs of the Season”
program TBA

proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
$41-$65
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://hyltoncenter.org

Dec. 11 (2 & 7 p.m.)
Dec. 12 (1 & 4:30 p.m.)
Dec. 18 (2 & 7 p.m.)
Dec. 19 (1 & 4:30 p.m.)
Dec. 22 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 23 (2 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Ballet
Richmond Symphony

conductor TBA
Tchaikovsky: “The Nutcracker”
$25-$125
proof of vaccination or negative test result, photo ID & masks required
(804) 334-0906
http://richmondballet.com

Dec. 11 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 12 (2 p.m.)
Forbes Arts Center, James Madison University, Harrisonburg
JMU music ensembles
“Holiday Fest: Winter Solstice”
program TBA

$23
masks required
(540) 568-7000
http://jmuforbescenter.com/events/2021/

Dec. 11 (3 p.m.)
Garth Newel Music Center, 403 Garth Newel Lane, Hot Springs
Jeannette Fang & Jeremy Thompson, piano duo
Mozart: Sonata in D major, K. 448
Amy Beach: “Suite Founded on Old Irish Melodies,” Op. 104
Rachmaninoff: Suite No. 2, Op. 17

$25-$80
masks recommended
$10 (online live stream)
(540) 839-5018
http://garthnewel.org

Dec. 11 (7:30 p.m.)
Merchant Hall, Hylton Arts Center, George Mason University, Manassas
Manassas Chorale & orchestra
Rebecca Verner directing
“Sing Gloria!”
holiday program TBA

proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
$23-$25
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://hyltoncenter.org

Dec. 11 (8 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
American Festival Pops Orchestra
Anthony Maiello conducting

“Holiday Pops: Songs of the Season”
program TBA

$36-$60
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
(703) 993-2787
http://cfa.gmu.edu

Dec. 12 (4 p.m.)
Trinity Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Parham Road, Richmond
Richmond Choral Society
Markus Compton directing
Christopher Martin, organ
David Schwoebel, piano

“Christmas with the Richmond Choral Society”
program TBA

$10-$15 (live attendance)
proof of vaccination or negative test result, photo ID & masks required
$10 (online stream)
(804) 353-9582
http://richmondchoralsociety.org

Dec. 12 (4 p.m.)
Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road, Richmond
Second Sunday South of the James:
orchestra
Anne Carr Regan conducting
Stephen Henley, organ
Zarah Brock, soprano
Ellen Brone, mezzo-soprano
Vonte Saunders, tenor
Alan Chavez, bass

Handel: “Messiah” (audience sing-in)
rehearsal, 1 p.m. Dec. 11
donation requested
masks required (singers included)
(804) 272-7514
http://bonairpc.org/wp/2021/07/31/2021-sssj-fall-season/

Dec. 12 (4 p.m.)
First Presbyterian Church, 4602 Cary Street Road, Richmond
First Presbyterian Chancel Choir
Festival Orchestra
Jason N. Brown conducting
Bruce Stevens, organ

Saint-Saëns: “Oratorio de Noël”
Christmas carol sing-along

free
masks recommended
(804) 358-2383
http://fpcrichmond.org/

Dec. 12 (4 p.m.)
Monroe Park, Franklin and Belvidere streets, Richmond
Greater Richmond Children’s Choirs
Crystal Jonkman directing
Grace & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Choir
Elizabeth Melcher Davis directing

other choirs TBA
“Caroling in the Park”
free
masks recommended
(804) 201-1894
http://www.grcchoir.org/performances

Dec. 12 (7:15 p.m.)
River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads, Richmond
River Road Chancel Choir
Robert Gallagher directing

Service of Lessons and Carols
works TBA by Harold W. Friedell, Hugo Distler, Mary Beth Bennett, Will Todd, John Rutter, Mack Wilberg

free (tickets required)
masks recommended
online live stream accessible
(804) 288-1131
http://rrcb.org

Dec. 12 (3 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Robert Shoup conducting

“Jingle Bell Jam”
family program TBA

$12-$22
masks required
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 12 (2 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Tiffany Poon, piano
Robert Schumann: “Kinderszenen,” Op. 15
Robert Schumann: Arabeske, Op. 18
Clara Wieck Schumann: Sonata in G minor
Clara Wieck Schumann: “Soirées Musicales,” Op. 6, Nos. 2, 3, 5
Robert Schumann: “Davidsbündlertänze,” Op. 6

$40
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(202) 785-9727 (Washington Performing Arts)
http://washingtonperformingarts.org

Dec. 14 (7:30 p.m.)
Shaftman Performance Hall, Jefferson Center, 541 Luck Ave., Roanoke
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra
RSO Virtuosi
David Stewart Wiley conducting

Handel: “Messiah” – Part 1 (Christmas portion) & “Hallelujah”
$28-$56
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
(540) 343-9127
http://rso.com

Dec. 15 (7:30 p.m.)
St. Bede Catholic Church, 3686 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg
Dec. 16 (7 p.m.)
Chesapeake Conference Center, 700 Conference Center Drive
Dec. 17 (7:30 p.m.)
Suffolk Arts Center, 110 W. Finley Ave.
Virginia Symphony Orchestra brass & percussion
“Holiday Brass”
program TBA

$25-$54 (Dec. 16 free)
masks required
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 16 (7:30 p.m.)
Regent University Theater, Virginia Beach
Dec. 17 (7:30 p.m.)
First Baptist Church, 12716 Warwick Boulevard, Newport News
Dec. 18 (7:30 p.m.)
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk
Virginia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Don McCullough conducting

Handel: “Messiah” – Part 1 (Christmas portion) & “Hallelujah”
Vanessa Becerra, soprano
Sarah Mesko, mezzo soprano
Jonathan Hill, tenor
Aleksey Bogdanov, baritone

$25-$110
masks required
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 16 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 17 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 18 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 19 (1 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda conducting

Handel: “Messiah” – Part 1 (Christmas portion)
J.S. Bach: Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
Suzannah Waddington, soprano (Handel & Bach)
Katerina Burton, soprano (Bach)
Rehanna Thelwell, alto
Duke Kim, tenor
William Meinert, bass
University of Maryland Concert Choir

$15-$99
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 18 (8 p.m.)
Gallery 5, 200 W. Marshall St., Richmond
Classical Revolution RVA
“Listen Local”
works TBA by Colton Dodd, David Robbins, Curt Sydnor, Donovan Williams

donation requested
masks required
(804) 678-8863 (Gallery 5)
http://www.classicalrevolutionrva.com/events

Dec. 18 (2:30 & 7:30 p.m.)
Paramount Theater, 215 E. Main St., Charlottesville
Oratorio Society of Virginia
Michael Slon directing

“Christmas at the Paramount”
Vivaldi: Gloria
Rachmaninoff: “All-Night Vigil”
works TBA by Adolphus Hailstork, Abbie Betinis, others

$10-$52
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
(434) 979-1333
http://theparamount.net

Dec. 18 (4 p.m.)
Dec. 19 (4 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Fairfax Ballet
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Zimmerman conducting

Tchaikovsky: “The Nutcracker”
$54-$94
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
(703) 993-2787
http://cfa.gmu.edu

Dec. 18 (2 p.m.)
Dec. 24 (11 a.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Choral Arts Society
Scott Tucker directing

“A Family Christmas”
program TBA

$20-$45
proof of vaccination (negative test result for children), photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 19 (8 p.m.)
The Loft at the HofGarden, 2818 W. Broad St., Richmond
Classical Revolution RVA
“Classical Incarnations”
program TBA

donation requested
masks required
(804) 424-3303 (HofGarden)
http://www.classicalrevolutionrva.com/events

Dec. 19 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 21 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 22 (3 & 7:30 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
The Washington Chorus
Eugene Rogers directing

“A Candlelight Christmas”
program TBA

$15-$101
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 20 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 24 (2 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Choral Arts Society Symphonic Chorus & Youth Choir
Scott Tucker directing

Christmas program TBA

$15-$72
proof of vaccination, photo ID & masks required
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 23 (7:30 p.m.)
Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons
National Philharmonic & Chorale
Stan Engebretson conducting

Handel: “Messiah”
Suzanne Karpov, soprano
Magdelena Wor, mezzo-soprano
Matthew Smith, tenor
Brandon Hendrickson, baritone

$45-$99
proof of vaccination or negative test result & masks required
(800) 653-8000 (Ticketmaster)
http://capitalonehall.com/events

Covid safety at a theater near you

Updated Dec. 1

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has arrived in the US. While there has been little talk so far about shutdowns (President Biden came out quickly against them), uncertainty and concern are rising toward the level reached in the midsummer spike in infections from the Delta variant – which is still the dominant strain in this country and most other places.

The Covid protocols that arts groups and theaters now follow date from the resumption of large public gatherings, and were tightened in response to the Delta spike. Not enough is known yet about Omicron’s potency – is it more rapidly and widely infectious, and can it evade vaccines? – for us to anticipate significant changes in existing rules.

What are the safety policies now in place?

Letter V covers musical events in Virginia and the Washington area, so that will be the focus of this survey.

If I were setting pandemic rules for public events, this would be my model: Washington Performing Arts advises patrons that most of its venues “have announced a Covid safety policy in line with our own policy of 100% vaccination” for staff and vendors. “[P]roof of a recent, negative test [is] an acceptable alternative in some cases. All partner venues also require that audiences be masked at all times within indoor facilities.”

Covid protocols vary among the region’s other prominent performance groups and venues. Some require, others “encourage” or “urge,” wearing masks. Admission policies most sharply diverge on whether patrons are required to show documents – vaccination cards, negative test readouts, photo ID in some places. That’s the safest practice, but it can create bottlenecks and produce mini-dramas at entrances. And it can sour the experience with a “show me your papers” vibe.

Here are safety policies now in effect, from advisories posted on the websites of Virginia and DC area presenters and venues:

– The Richmond Symphony requires adults and children 17 or younger to present proof of vaccination – i.e., the card – or documentation of a negative result from a test professionally administered within the past three days, before admission to its concerts at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center. Photo ID is required for adults. The facility “strongly encourage[s] all patrons, whether they have been vaccinated or not, to wear masks while they are in the building.” 

– The same rules apply for Virginia Opera performances in Norfolk, Richmond and Fairfax, and for events at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax and Hylton Arts Center in Manassas, Capital One Hall in Tysons, The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and venues at Strathmore in the DC suburb of North Bethesda, MD.

– Locally, masks are required for indoor events at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center, Perkinson Arts Center in Chester, the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia programs. Mask-wearing in other performance spaces – churches, galleries, pubs – may be required or just recommended.

– Indoor masking is also the rule at Virginia Symphony Orchestra concerts in southeastern Virginia, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra concerts, and events at the Ferguson Arts Center of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, the Academy of the Arts Historic Theater in Lynchburg, Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg, and venues at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

– Richmond’s Altria Theater “strongly encourage[s]” patrons to wear masks. Currently, it allows presenters to “decide what they think is right for their fan base, and we will implement those requirements on their behalf, possibly including proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test, and face masks.” A similar policy is in effect at Norfolk’s Seven Venues, including Harrison Opera House, Chrysler Hall, Scope Arena and the Wells Theatre.

– Some college and university websites that I’ve checked detail safety requirements for students, faculty and staff, but are vague or blank about visitors. I would assume that the schools require masks at indoor events. Many campus facilities were closed to outsiders last year; presumably that would happen again if infections spike.

If you plan to attend an event outside Virginia and DC during the holidays, don’t assume that home rules are followed in the places you visit. Before making plans – certainly before buying tickets – check on safety requirements by calling box offices or checking websites of presenters and/or venues. The box office is more likely to be up-to-date than the website. (That’s true close to home as well.)

BASELINE GUIDELINE: Bring your vaccination card (I carry a copy in my wallet) or negative test documentation and photo ID. Wear a mask indoors. Try to keep a safe distance – ideally, six feet – from people you didn’t come with. If you don’t feel well, don’t go.

As of December, Letter Vs monthly calendar includes primary Covid-19 safety protocols for each event. Check with presenters or venues for detailed requirements.

Lights out in Europe

(Updating an article first posted on Nov. 21)

The stage lights are going out all over Europe. And elsewhere? Soon?

As another wave of Covid-19 rolls across the continent, theaters in Amsterdam, Vienna, Salzburg, Bratislava, Leipzig and Dresden have shut down. The Bavarian State Opera in Munich has reduced available seating, and a number of venues, including the Berlin Philharmonie and La Scala in Milan, are turning away those lacking documentation that they’re fully vaccinated. Some theaters are requiring both proof of vaccination and an onsite negative test result prior to admission. Masking is back.

Street protests against safety mandates have been proliferating – most recently a big one in Switzerland, one of the last places anyone would expect to be a flashpoint of unrest.

All that preceded the arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. First identified in South Africa, it is spreading in neighboring African states and has begun to appear in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hong Kong and Australia. (The list is growing daily.) With anecdotal reports that it is more readily transmitted, and potentially infectious even to the fully vaccinated, Omicron threatens to hasten and prolong closures, not just of theaters and not just in Europe.

Nations across the world are banning flights from southern Africa and placing incoming travelers in quarantine. Israel has closed its borders to non-citizens. Morocco and Japan have suspended incoming international flights. Expect other countries to institute such measures.

“The fear factor has returned,” The Guardian’s Larry Elliott writes. He calls efforts to fend off Omicron once it has broken out “a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

ABOUT OMICRON: The most informative, balanced and lay reader-friendly primer I’ve read on the new variant and its implications is by The Atlantic’s Katherine J. Wu, who interviews Emory University virologist Boghuma Kabisen Titanji on what we already know and what we have yet to learn about this latest Greek letter from hell. “What’s known so far absolutely warrants attention – not panic,” Wu writes: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/11/omicron-coronavirus-variant-what-we-know/620827/

Stephen Crout (1944-2021)

Stephen Crout, founder of Washington Concert Opera and longtime director of arts troupes in the DC area and Virginia, has died at 77.

A native of Elmira, NY, Crout trained as a pianist and singer, performing in both roles in New York’s Gregg Smith Singers in the 1970s. In 1980, he joined The Washington Opera (now Washington National Opera), becoming its chorus master. In 1986, he launched Washington Concert Opera to present works rarely staged in US opera houses. He cast his productions with young singers who went on to stellar careers, among them Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves and Ben Heppner.

From 1991 to 1993, Crout was artistic director at the Ash Lawn-Highland Festival, whose summer season featured operas staged in the boxwood garden of James Monroe’s hilltop estate near Charlottesville. The company subsequently evolved into Charlottesville Opera.

Crout was music director of The Washington Ballet from 1989 to 2001, and guest-conducted at Wolf Trap Opera, Virginia Opera and other opera and ballet companies.

An obituary by Francisco Salazar for Opera Wire:

Obitutary: Washington Concert Opera Founder Stephen Crout Dies at 77

Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)

Stephen Sondheim, the pre-eminent American musical-theater composer of the past 60 years, has died at 91.

Sondheim, a native New Yorker and protégé of Oscar Hammerstein II, was a pianist and songwriter from boyhood who began serious composition study in college. His first Broadway successes came in the 1950s, as the lyricist of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Jules Styne’s “Gypsy.” Sondheim’s first hit as both composer and lyricist was “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which opened in 1962.

Among his most acclaimed musicals were “Company” (1970), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (1979) and “Sunday in the Park with George” (1984). Sondheim also wrote film scores and adaptations of his stage shows for television and films.

“Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” is the best-known among many songs from his shows that became standards of popular music and cabaret.

Sondheim was the recipient of eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award for best original song (“Sooner or Later” from “Dick Tracy” in 1990), a Pulitzer Prize for drama (“Sunday in the Park with George” in 1985, shared with James Lapine, the show’s author and director) and, in 2015, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

An obituary by Bruce Weber for The New York Times, with a previously unreleased video interview from 2008:

The perils and promise of clickable culture

In an essay for The Guardian, Anne Helen Petersen, the former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, contemplates the consequences of spending the pandemic stuck at home, consuming an overload of television, film, music, books and more.

“Wading through the streaming menus felt akin to babysitting hundreds of small children, all of them clawing at me, desperate for my attention,” Petersen writes:

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2021/nov/20/overloaded-is-there-simply-too-much-culture

You can make a pretty convincing case that cultural overload has been a thing ever since the widespread dissemination of recordings, movies and broadcasts began a century ago – or, taking a longer view, since the spread of literacy, invention of movable type and opening of book shops and circulating libraries.

Culture at the click of a mouse or tap on a screen is a much newer, overwhelming thing. The quantity of culture-on-demand – highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow, furrowed brow – has grown exponentially in recent years, and time on our hands during pandemic isolation has compounded its effects.

At the same time, guidance in consuming culture has become an all-bets-are-off proposition. The old gate-keepers are mostly gone. Everybody’s a critic, and anybody can launch a website, podcast or YouTube/TikTok/whatever’s-next channel. In time, you can find reliable guides; or you can just say, “To hell with them” (being one of them, I should say “us”), and become a do-it-yourself curator. Either way, you’ll endure cultural overload getting there.

The easy cure for overload isn’t culturally healthy. At a certain age – 40, let’s say – you know what you like and tend to stick with it, re-watching favorite TV shows and movies, re-reading favorite books, listening to the music you grew up with, tuning in to long-trusted channels. Maybe you’ll try new offerings that, according to some reliable source of guidance (or, God help us, algorithm), may resemble your old favorites. You’re in a feedback loop, comfortable but constricted. Your perspective is more then than now.

The easiest way out of this loop is to graze, to discover new things by sampling episodes, trailers, tracks and chapters. That’s time-consuming, much of the time wasted because most of what’s on offer won’t be worth your time. Young people have (or make) time to waste (or experiment, or explore), which goes a long way toward explaining why cultural innovations usually come from the young and initially appeal to the young.

The good news is that cultural overload can lead to a golden age. The European Renaissance didn’t happen until people were exposed to art and ideas that weren’t previously accessible, then built upon that newly discovered stuff. American music didn’t become distinctively “American” until recordings and radio circulated songs and dances and instruments previously heard only in isolated subcultures, and musicians began to absorb and apply those styles and techniques.

Clickable culture could usher in a renaissance. It’s going to take time, though, for creators to break through the clutter and consumers to sort through the results.

Review: Richmond Symphony

Valentina Peleggi conducting
with Katherine Needleman, oboe
Nov. 13-14, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

(reviewed from online stream, posted Nov. 17)

Listeners long immersed in classical music, especially people like me who’ve long listened for a living, approach unfamiliar music with greater anticipation than most symphony concertgoers – a spoiler alert for what follows.

The Richmond Symphony’s latest Masterworks program featured two works by Ruth Gipps (1921-99), a British composer previously unknown to most of this audience and undoubtedly to most of these musicians, alongside the most familiar of symphonies, Beethoven’s No. 5 in C minor.

Too much appetizer, not enough main course? Not to my ears.

Gipps’ Symphony No. 2 in B major and Oboe Concerto in D minor, both dating from the 1940s, proved to be well worth hearing, and received more engaged and refined accounts than might have been expected. These were among the first performances of the two works by a professional US orchestra. The musicians played like they were glad to discover this composer and motivated to do right by her – always a good thing, whatever the music on their stands.

Throughout the concerto, Gipps ably exploits the oboe’s two prime expressive qualities, austere lyricism and witty, playful elaboration, and provides plenty of attractive interaction between soloist and orchestra.

The soloist in this performance, Katherine Needleman, onetime principal oboist of the Richmond Symphony who went on to fill the same post in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is now the most prominent non-British advocate for this work. She has done colleagues and audiences a favor in finding something other than Mozart and Richard Strauss for oboe soloists to play with orchestras.

Needleman was consistently virtuosic and interpretively persuasive, especially in the composer’s imaginative deconstructions of Scottish/Celtic tunes and dances in the final movement.

Gipps’ Second Symphony, in one movement but with distinct, contrasting sections, is green-and-pleasant-land atmospheric in the tradition of the British “pastoral” school, but with a more colorful orchestration (tambourine shakes the shires!) and with wider expressive contrasts than heard in most such works.

Some of the symphony’s asides and transitions are awkward; others, like the English horn solo between the animated first section and the subsequent idyll – realized beautifully here by Shawn Welk – are sublime. The piece tends to ramble – the curse of late-late-romantic composers generally, Brits especially – but is far from the worst offender in wearing out its welcome.

So, what to make of Ruth Gipps from these examples of her music? A deft orchestrator (oboe fronting big band ain’t easy), a composer who audibly and agreeably manifests her national/ethnic cultural DNA, doesn’t just orchestrally gloss folky themes but only occasionally transforms or re-invents them . . . a Kodály, not a Bartók.

Then, the Fifth: Certainly a contrast with Gipps, a century and a half and a lot of stylistic evolution separating them, but not chalk to her cheese. Both composers build big edifices from small, constantly manipulated thematic bits; both rise to dramatic heights, Beethoven with greater urgency; and both fully employ all their instrumental resources.

Valentina Peleggi, the orchestra’s music director, and her forces lit into the Fifth’s first movement and finale – brisk bordering on terse, almost but not quite too fast for proper articulation and balances (except for some of the wind players). Inner movements were paced at more customary tempos, allowing for warmer, more breathing expression.

Was it a Fifth that made you hear the music as if for the first time? You’d be lucky to hear a warhorse classic played that compellingly in concert once in a lifetime, and this wasn’t such a performance. Did it do the Fifth justice? Outside of stray flubs and balance problems between strings and winds in the quietest passages, yes, it did.

The online stream’s camera work improves on past productions. Over-prominent winds and brass, whether from the performances or microphone placement and audio mix, persist.

The stream of the program remains accessible through June 30, 2022. Single-concert access: $30. Full Masterworks season access: $180. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Woke or awakening?

Pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, the artistic directors of New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, kindled a brushfire of sorts in a recent interview with The New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández, in which Finckel responded to complaints that the society’s programming leans too heavily on the tried-and-true and offers too little exposure to contemporary music and previously marginalized composers.

“We never want to force people to listen to music that they don’t want to listen to because we think it’s good for them,” Finckel said:

To that and other comments from Han and Finckel, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman responds, “What is so damn terrifying about the possibility that exploring new and diverse musical sources — living composers, women, creators of color — might prove rewarding?”

Diversify the world of classical music? Some key players are digging in their heels

This back-and-forth is hardly new. In US orchestral circles, the tension between old and new, familiar and novel, dates back to the early 20th century, when Leopold Stokowski at the Philadelphia Orchestra and Serge Koussevitzky at the Boston Symphony Orchestra provoked audiences with then-radical works by the likes of Alexander Scriabin, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky and the young (pre-“Americana”) Aaron Copland.

Today, the issue is the rather sudden inclusion of works by female, Black and Asian or Asian-American composers, many of whom have long deserved to be heard – where have Louise Farrenc and Florence Price been all our lives? – but whose emergence in concert programs alongside the #MeToo and racial-justice movements suggests trendy, defensively “woke” programming.

Is Valentina Peleggi, the Richmond Symphony’s music director, trendy/woke in conducting two works by the mid-20th century English composer Ruth Gipps alongside Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in this weekend’s Masterworks concerts?

Gipps’ music is not noticeably feminist (however that might find expression in a purely instrumental work) or radical by the standards of her time and place. Like her contemporaries Frank Bridge, William Walton and Benjamin Britten, Gipps stylistically occupied the shifting terrain between the English pastoralists (Vaughan Williams & Co.) and the spiky modernist Brits (Oliver Knussen, Harrison Birtwistle, et al.) who would emerge in the late 20th century. Gipps contrasts pretty sharply with Beethoven – but, then, so do others among the “circumscribed set of a dozen or so dead white European men” that Kosman finds emblematic of stuck-in-a-rut classical programming.

The real resistance to composers like Gipps is not that they represent marginalized groups but that they’re unknown to most listeners. The same sort of resistance might greet music by dead white European male contemporaries of Gipps – Bohuslav Martinů, say, or Mieczysław Weinberg.

Orchestras, opera companies, chamber groups and recitalists are playing catch-up in their programming today. That, too, isn’t new. It took a generation or two for classical music to admit now-familiar works by modern composers to the standard repertory, and several centuries to rediscover figures from the distant past such as Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Philippe Rameau and C.P.E. Bach. Long before woke was an epithet, performers and audiences were gradually (resistantly?) growing attuned to non-European composers such as Japan’s Toru Takemitsu and Argentina’s Alberto Ginastera – not to mention Americans not named Ives, Gershwin, Copland or Bernstein. That process will be ongoing as long as classical music is performed.

Does all of this long-unknown music measure up to Beethoven or Tchaikovsky? Of course not. Most music is mediocre or worse (including some Beethoven and Tchaikovsky), most obscure music from the past deserves its obscurity, and most of the music being premiered today is destined to be forgotten, often as soon as the next piece on the program is played.

The argument, essentially, is whether classical performers will be curators of historical greats – like museums devoted to past masters or, at lower elevation, “tribute” bands playing old rock songs in nightclubs or at pops concerts – or advocates for a living, evolving art form that plays the greatest hits but also looks to the future and explores neglected corners of the past.

For a little context, let’s time-travel back a century, to a program (archived at http://www.classical.net/music/guide/society/krs/programs/index.php) from the Concerts Koussevitzky series in Paris, presented on Nov. 24, 1921:

J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto in G major (No. 3? No. 4? Not specified)
C.P.E. Bach: Concerto in D major for strings (arrangement by Maximilian Steinberg)
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major
Jacques Thibaud, violin
Ravel: “La Valse”
Mendelssohn: Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” incidental music
Prokofiev: “Scythian Suite”

Surely, many in that concert’s audience came to hear Thibaud play Beethoven and squirmed through the then-new Ravel and Prokofiev works, and not inconceivably through the then-obscure pieces by the Bachs.

Was Koussevitzky too . . . réveillé?

‘Rings’ all around

In the opera department of Getting Back to Normal, all manner of “Ring” cycles – emphasis on “all manner” – are in the works.

Putting on “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas, with its massive orchestration and populous cast, would be an epic coming-out party after all the cancellations, truncations, chamber reductions and limited-attendance performances of the pandemic years.

Trouble is, staging the cycle is infamously expensive and labor-intensive, as well as being very challenging to cast and, with the four works collectively clocking in at 17 hours or so (not counting intermissions), a high-stakes gamble if your audience isn’t German-speaking and you don’t promise to be an irresistible draw for hard-core Wagnerites who wander the Earth in search of the ultimate “Ring.”

(I define a “Ring” junkie as someone who eagerly anticipates sitting through Act 1 of “Siegfried.”)

New York’s Metropolitan Opera, whose last staging of the cycle, directed by Robert Lepage, is remembered for its massive, noisily malfunctioning lazy-susan set and for being subjected to memorably caustic reviews by the New York critics. The Met now is planning a new production directed by Richard Jones, whose previous two “Ring” efforts were (1st time) abandoned halfway into the cycle when the money ran out and (2nd time) went the distance, only to be ferociously panned by British critics, The New York Times’ Matthew Anderson reports:

However Jones’ third go turns out – it’s scheduled to begin in 2025 and to be staged in full in the 2026-27 season – it will follow two cycles that are unlike any “Ring” presented in living memory.

As previewed here last year (https://letterv.blog/2020/01/05/), conductor Kent Nagano and Concerto Köln, the German period-instruments orchestra, are rolling out a “Ring” with the instrumentation and purportedly in the style that would have been heard in the mid- to late-19th century. That cycle begins with “Das Rheingold,” first (and shortest) of the four dramas, to be presented on Nov. 18 at the Kölner Philharmonie and Nov. 20 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (unless the latest European wave of Covid-19 leads to lockdowns).

Already underway in London is a cycle by the ensemble Gafa (Samoan for “family”), staging “concert with movement” presentations that draw “parallels between Wagner’s great Nordic creation myth, with the gods’ love of power destroying them and Brünnhilde’s self-inflicted immolation ushering in suffering humanity, and the Pacific experience of western settlers usurping indigenous deities and imposing their own faith and values. Throw in a backcloth of the 1918 flu epidemic (prefiguring our present pandemic), brought to the islands by New Zealanders aboard the SS Talune, that killed 22% of Samoans, as well as allusions to climate change that threatens to overwhelm the islands . . . a potent cocktail,” The Guardian’s Stephen Moss writes:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/oct/28/samoan-ring-cycle-wagner-gafa-ringafa

UPDATE (Nov. 19): Shirley Apthorp reviews the first Concerto Köln “Rheingold” performance for Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog:

Nelson Freire (1944-2021)

Nelson Freire, the esteemed Brazilian pianist and longtime duo-piano partner of Martha Argerich, has died at 77.

Freire, initially trained in Brazil and then in Vienna, was often described as a pianist of poetic sensibility, although he played a number of virtuoso finger-busters as well as repertory requiring more subtlety of technique and interpretation.

Among his many recordings, his duo performances with Argerich, notably of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn,” and of the Brahms piano concertos with Riccardo Chailly conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, were among the most celebrated.

Famously publicity-shy, Freire was more of a star among fellow pianists and piano connoisseurs than the broader public.

An obituary by Maddy Shaw Roberts for the Classic FM website:

http://www.classicfm.com/artists/nelson-freire/brazilian-pianist-dies-aged-77/

“The important thing is the experience of life, and today there are fewer opportunities to live a full life that allows a natural expression of music,” Freire told Luis Sunen in a 2019 interview, posted on the International Classical Music Awards website. “I know from experience that without life there is no music.”

Nelson Freire: ‘I have lived seven different lives’