Bellingham Symphony Orchestra: From our homes, to yours

Bellingham Symphony Orchestra

WHAT: Bellingham Symphony Orchestra’s 45th Season
WHEN: Second Sunday of the month, Oct. 11-June 13
COST: Subscription rates vary; day-of viewings are free

One reason Gail Ridenour is confident Bellingham Symphony Orchestra’s 45th season will be a success is that, thanks to its ability to adapt, the longtime collective of talented chamber musicians already knows what it takes to get heard during a pandemic.

Ridenour, the executive director of BSO and a resident oboist, says in March when a nationwide shutdown of performing arts venues canceled its penultimate concert of the 2019/2020 season at the Mount Baker Theatre, they were nevertheless able to record their final rehearsal with the prescheduled soloists and broadcast it to the public.

“People responded about how much it meant to them during these times,” she says. “Because of that experience, we knew we needed to continue bringing the gift of music to our community however we could.”

Canceling the 45th season was never on the table, but innovation and creativity was. A trial run of what a season without a live audience might look like took place in May, when the board, staff and musicians produced an online concert that highlighted three elements: the scheduled guest artist (violinist Chee-Yun) recording solo music from their own home, that same performer being interviewed on Zoom by BSO Music Director Yaniv Attar, and select ensemble members providing a socially distanced recording of their music to augment the experience.

The engaging effort was also well-received, and partnerships with BTV and KMRE 102.3FM helped further broadcast the sights and sounds of Bellingham Symphony Orchestra to the community at large. The model also gave BSO’s mostly volunteer musicians an opportunity to ply their craft, and vital work to guest artists whose careers are dependent upon performing with orchestras around the world.

As summer gives way to fall, BSO’s guiding principles of power, beauty and inspiration will be revealed when the new season begins with “At Home with Elisa” at 1pm on Sun., Oct. 11 on a screen or radio station near you. Seattle Symphony violinist Elisa Barston will be joined by Attar on guitar to perform Niccolo Paganini’s “Sonata Concertata,” and she’ll also highlight pieces by Bach, Eugene Ysaye, and Fritz Kreisler. A 12pm preconcert lecture with conductor Ryan Dudenbostel will sweeten the pot.

For this concert, and for those that will follow on the second Sunday of every month through June 2021, anyone can watch for free when they first air on Bellingham Symphony Orchestra’s website, BTV, and KMRE. After that, the performances will be available to view anytime through BSO’s channel website, either by purchasing a year’s subscription (a steal at $135), as a monthly subscriber ($14.99), or obtaining a single-use day pass for access to a concert ($9.99). It’s a small price to pay to support your local orchestra, and gives fans the opportunity to watch the concert wherever they want—“From our homes, to yours,” Ridenour says.

Throughout the year, themed performances with top-tier talent will celebrate women’s voices in classical music, provide holiday cheer, give a nod to romance, celebrate mothers, explore social justice issues and more, but Ridenour and Attar feel the sixth annual “Harmony from Discord” concert with award-winning violinist Bella Hristova in June best encapsulates how they think music can change the world.

“Our ‘Harmony from Discord’ series will feature the same composers we have learned to love, but through the lens of their chamber music,” Attar says. “This year, more than ever, we want to share music that transcends oppression to inspire us with its power and beauty.”

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