Betty Allan (1929-2020)

Betty Brown Allan, a cellist and founding member of the Richmond Symphony, has died at 91.

A native of Puducah, KY, and graduate of Murray State and Florida State universities, she played in the Nashville and North Carolina symphonies before moving to Richmond. She played in the Richmond Symphony for 44 years, retiring from the orchestra in 2001. She also performed in a number of chamber ensembles, taught cello at Virginia Commonwealth University and taught piano privately.

Memorial donations may be made to the Richmond Symphony, Epiphany Lutheran Church or the American Cancer Society.

Distant prospects for concerts

Researchers from the Charité Medical Hospital in Berlin have issued new guidelines on separation of the seating of orchestra musicians during the coronavirus pandemic, and the figures don’t look promising for resumption of symphonic concerts.

The guidelines recommend that string players be positioned 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) apart, wind players 2 meters (about 6.7 feet) distant from one another, with brass musicians playing behind plexiglass shields, and with conductors positioned at least 1.5 meters from the nearest player.

Given the size of most concert-hall stages, those numbers suggest that a chamber orchestra is the largest group that could be accommodated. And given the distances between musicians, significant issues of ensemble sound arise.

If this guidance is followed by orchestras, listeners could expect to hear more baroque, classical, modern neoclassical and large-scale chamber repertory such as octets and nonets, not much from the romantic era, none of the late-romantic and early modern big-orchestra blockbusters, and markedly different orchestral sound textures, more dependent than ever on the acoustics of the performance space.

Details on the guidelines from Vienna’s Wiener Zeitung newspaper (in German, English translation enabled):

Preliminary findings from researchers at the Bundeswehr University of Munich, examining “both the spit-like (ballistic) spread of larger droplets and the flow-related spread of small droplets (aerosol) when making music,” suggest that professional choral singers spread larger droplets half a meter (about 1.8 feet) or less, and that most wind musicians project droplets 1 meter or less.

Their report is summarized in this article from the Swiss online newsletter Katholisches Medienzentrum (in German, English translation enabled):

Infektionsrisiko beim Chorsingen begrenzt

(Note that the Munich research addresses professional singers, who are trained not to emit as much air as amateurs in vocalizing.)


None of that touches on the issue of social distancing in seating audiences. Is it economically feasible to stage a concert in which patrons need to sit six feet apart – in effect, leaving two-thirds of seats vacant? One European source tells me that concert promoters there are considering schemes in which patrons are required to purchase multiple seats, or even rows of seats, to attend performances.

Lynn Harrell (1944-2020)

The eminent US cellist Lynn Harrell has died at 76.

Joining the cello section of the Cleveland Orchestra at the age of 18 and named principal cellist two years later, Harrell spent seven years with the orchestra before launching a career as a soloist and chamber musician. His work in a piano trio with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and violinist Itzhak Perlman yielded a number of acclaimed recordings, two of which won Grammy awards. Harrell also taught at the Juilliard School, the Aspen Festival, London’s Royal Academy of Music and other institutions.

An obituary from The Strad magazine:

Richmond Symphony 2020-21, adjusted

To accommodate the schedule of its new music director, Valentina Peleggi, the Richmond Symphony has adjusted dates and programming for its 2020-21 classical subscription concerts.

The deadline for subscription renewal has been extended to April 30. For information on subscriptions, call the symphony’s ticket services office at (804) 788-1212 or visit

Single tickets will go on sale on Aug. 1.

The new schedule:

Saturday evenings & Sunday afternoons at Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets
8-concert subscriptions: $185-$553
4-concert subscriptions: $93-$284

Sept. 19 (8 p.m.)
Sept. 20 (3 p.m.)
George Manahan conducting
William Grant Still: “Festive Overture”
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F major
Aaron Diehl, piano
Jessie Montgomery: “Coincident Dances”
Duke Ellington: “Black, Brown and Beige” Suite

Oct. 17 (8 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219
Melissa White, violin
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

Nov. 14 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 15 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Louise Farrenc: Overture No. 1 in E minor
Fauré: Pavane in F sharp minor, Op. 50
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”)
soloists TBA
Richmond Symphony Chorus

Jan. 16 (8 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Barber: “Toccata Festiva”
Ravel: “Ma mère l’oye” (“Mother Goose”) Suite
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (“Organ”)
Daniel Stipe, organ

Feb. 6 (8 p.m.)
Erin Freeman conducting
Haydn: “The Creation”
soloists TBA
Richmond Symphony Chorus

March 6 (8 p.m.)
March 7 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Guillaume Connesson: “Maslenitsa”
Prokofiev: “Romeo and Juliet” (excerpts)
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor
Gabriela Martinez, piano

April 17 (8 p.m.)
April 18 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Anna Clyne: “Abstractions”
Barber: Violin Concerto
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor

May 22 (7:30 p.m.)
Andrew Litton conducting
Menuhin Competition Senior Finals
soloists & repertory TBA

* * *

Saturday evenings at Jimmy Dean Theater, Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts, 11801 Center St., Chester
Sunday afternoons at Blackwell Auditorium, Randolph-Macon College, 205 Henry St., Ashland
4-concert Sunday subscriptions: $70
3-concert Saturday subscriptions: $53

Oct. 25 (3 p.m.)
conductor TBA
Rossini: “L’Italiana in Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”) Overture
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”)
Rossini (attr.): Bassoon Concerto
Thomas Schneider, bassoon
Boccherini: Symphony in D minor, Op. 12, No. 4 (“La casa del diavolo”)

Jan. 23 (7:30 p.m.)
Jan. 24 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D major (“Classical”)
Wagner: “Siegfried Idyll”
Caroline Shaw: “Entr’acte”
Poulenc: Sinfonietta

Feb. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Feb. 21 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Daisuke Yamamoto, violin & leader
J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Melinda Wagner: “Little Moonhead”
J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Stravinsky: Concerto in E flat major (“Dumbarton Oaks”)

April 24 (7:30 p.m.)
April 25 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Zachary Wadsworth: “Variations on an Unheard Theme”
Hilary Purrington: Guitar Concerto (“Harp of Nerves”)
JIJI, guitar
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major

Symphony streams virtual Music Marathon

The Richmond Symphony’s annual fund-raising Music Marathon, in which the orchestra’s musicians, staff and patrons perform in chamber music, will be streamed on Facebook LIVE beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on April 25.

To view and hear performances, go to:

To make a contribution, go to:

Music may boost body’s immune system

Music has been a spiritual refuge for many of us during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s also evidence that its role in reducing stress and anxiety can positively affect the body’s immune system.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jeremy Reynolds cites several studies, including a 2013 review in the journal Brian Behavior and Immunity, examining the impact of music on biomarkers and hormone levels. “Immunoglobulin A, which plays a crucial role in immune functions, was cited as being ‘particularly responsive to music.’ There is also general consensus among researchers that listening to music reduces cortisol levels,” Reynolds reports.

He quotes Dr. Andrew Levin, a University of Pittsburgh neurologist: “I’m a skeptic by nature, so when I first heard of the mind-body connection I thought it was new-age woo-woo. However, the more I learned about human physiology, and in particular neurophysiology and neurology, I became increasingly convinced that we actually underestimate how profound this connection is.”


Cancellations, closures extended into summer

Updated regularly

With Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam extending a stay-at-home order through June 10, musical events, like other public gatherings, are off for the forseeable future.

Specific notices in the Richmond area and Virginia-DC region:

The Menuhin Competition for young violinists, which had been scheduled for May 14-24 in Richmond, has been postponed until May 13-23, 2021. Tickets already sold for festival events will be honored next year. For information on ticket donations, refunds or exchanges, go to

The Richmond Symphony has canceled or postponed this season’s remaining performances. The “Star Wars” concert has been rescheduled to June 19, and “Violins of Hope” has been postponed to a date to be announced. Details: (804) 788-1212;

Virginia Opera canceled performances of Verdi’s “Aïda,” which had been scheduled for March 20, 22 and 24 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House and March 27 and 29 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center in Richmond, and of Derrick Wang’s “Scalia/Ginsberg,” which was scheduled for April 4 in Norfolk. Information: (866) 673-7282;

The Richmond chapter, American Guild of Organists has postponed an April 24 recital by Clara Gerdes, part of its Repertoire Recital Series, until Nov. 13 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Information:

The Richmond Philharmonic postponed a concert scheduled for May 10, and hopes to reschedule it in the 2020-21 season. Information: (804) 556-1039;

The Richmond Choral Society has canceled remaining concerts in its current season. Information: (804) 353-9582;

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia has canceled a program scheduled for May 3 at Perkinson Recital Hall at the University of Richmond. Information: (804) 304-6312;

Virginia Commonwealth University has canceled all remaining concerts in the current school year. Information:

The University of Richmond has canceled all Modlin Arts Center events through the rest of the season. Credits or donations on ticket purchases may be arranged through March 23; thereafter, refunds will be issued automatically. Information: (804) 289-8980;

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart has canceled a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor that was scheduled for May 1. Information: (804) 359-5631;

Elsewhere: The Virginia Symphony Orchestra has postponed all concerts until late August. . . . The Virginia Arts Festival has postponed or canceled all performances through late August. . . . The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has canceled remaining concerts in its current season. . . . The Ferguson Arts Center at Christopher Newport University in Newport News has suspended performances until June 10. . . . The Feldman Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg have canceled remaining concerts in their current seasons. . . . The University of Virginia in Charlottesville has suspended all performances at Old Cabell Hall until further notice. . . . The Charlottesville Symphony has canceled all remaining concerts in its current season. . . . The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville has postponed or canceled events through Aug. 2. . . . Charlottesville Opera has canceled its summer-season productions. . . . Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs has canceled all events until May 22. . . . The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra has postponed all remaining concerts in its season, and plans to reschedule them to dates in June. . . . Opera Roanoke has canceled the rest of its season, including performances of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” that had been scheduled in May. . . . Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg has canceled all events through early August. . . . Wolf Trap in Vienna has canceled or postponed all performances and events through June 30. . . . George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax has canceled all events through Aug. 8. . . . The Kennedy Center in Washington has canceled all performances and public events through Aug. 9. . . . Washington Performing Arts has canceled all remaining events in the current season (through June 7). . . . The Library of Congress in Washington has postponed concerts and other public events through May 30. . . . The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, outside DC, has canceled most ticketed events through June 13.

Walter Braxton (1952-2020)

Walter Braxton, a prolific but chronically under-performed Richmond composer, has died at 67.

A onetime boy soprano, Braxton began composing in childhood. In teenage, he came to the attention of Edgar Schenkman, then the music director of the Richmond Symphony, who advised him on composition and invited him to conduct the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra. Braxton also was the principal flutist of the International Music Festival Institute of the London Symphony Orchestra.

He subsequently enrolled at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and later studied composition at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the early 1970s, he was diagnosed with schizo-effective disorder, which plagued him for the rest of his life. He also struggled with substance abuse.

Braxton’s output includes five symphonies, two string quartets and a dozen other chamber works, a Requiem Mass, and the opera “To Damascus,” which he worked on for a quarter-century before its premiere in 2018 at Richmond’s Firehouse Theatre.

A profile of Braxton by Dale Brumfield, published in 2013 by Style Weekly:

UR’s Crutcher joins virtual concert ranks

Ronald A. Crutcher, the University of Richmond’s president and a longtime cellist, will present a solo recital at noon EST (1600 GMT/UTC) April 17, joining the ranks of musicians around the world who’ve sought to compensate for the closure of concert halls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A link to Crutcher’s performance here: