While fall foliage is not quite at its peak on the Montclair State campus, the University’s Amphitheater this weekend was already beginning to look like the holidays. Giant red bows adorned a timpani keeping beat as the New York Philharmonic recorded – outdoors – its annual Holiday Brass Concert.
With the pandemic preventing live indoor performances, the brass and percussion musicians spread out over 30 rows of steps decked out with garland and lights, the natural open space and social distancing part of a careful performance comeback for the prestigious orchestra.
“The pandemic has deeply affected the musical landscape and we’re proud to be able to pave a way for musicians to have an opportunity to perform together,” says Anthony Mazzocchi, director of the John J. Cali School of Music.
As the New York Philharmonic’s home in Lincoln Center remains closed, it has been seeking new ways to share and make music. This has included an audio “Soundwalk” to explore Central Park and a series of pop-up chamber concerts from the NY Phil Bandwagon.
Montclair State’s music ensembles have also been creative, using outdoor spaces and the Red Hawk Deck for socially distanced in-person practice and instruction. The Cali School coordinated with the New York Philharmonic to provide the Amphitheater for its holiday recording.
“Montclair State University has been a great partner, providing us an ideal venue – an acoustically vibrant outdoor amphitheater – to record this special project,” says New York Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda.
“We’re grateful to the University administration and to the John J. Cali School of Music for helping facilitate a safe environment for our musicians to come together for the 25th annual Holiday Brass concert,” Borda says.
The bright and lively music conducted by Philip Smith, former Principal Trumpet, could be heard while walking campus, and students on both Saturday, October 10 and Sunday, October 11 wandered to the venue to listen.
“While it may be a little early for holiday music, it was a rare opportunity to hear the NY Phil in person for the first time in over half a year,” Mazzocchi says.
The show will air digitally in December as part of Holidays with the NY Phil series.
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren