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RV Symphony offers digital 'Concert Detours' during pandemic

The Rogue Valley Symphony has canceled the remaining live performances of its 2020-21 concert season, hoping to return to the stage in September of next year.

RVS will continue its new series, “Digital Journeys: Concert Detours,” with the second online performance scheduled Friday, Oct. 23, exclusively for patrons and available free to the general public after Nov. 1 on the symphony’s YouTube channel.

Search YouTube for “Rogue Valley Symphony” to see posted concerts.

The RVS brass and percussion sections were filmed for the second concert detour as they traveled throughout the Rogue Valley the week of Oct. 7, performing three fanfares in honor of local heroes who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fires that raced through Southern Oregon in September.

“This project was conceived in gratitude for the selfless work of medical professionals who bravely faced the new and unknown,” said Martin Majkut, RVS music director. “And when the fires happened, our eyes opened to new heroes — firefighters, first responders and citizens — who risked their lives in order to save others and to save property.”

The program includes “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” by Joan Tower, and “Fanfare for Our Heroes” by Chelsea Majkut.

The music was performed at fire stations in Ashland, Phoenix and Talent; at a fire relief center at the Shoppes at Exit 24 in Phoenix; and for the staff at Talent Middle School.

The third concert detour will include “Romanian Folk Dances” by Bela Bartok, “Musica Celestis” by Aaron J. Kernis, and “Holberg Suite” by Edvard Grieg. It will be available to subscribers

Nov. 20 and to the general public after Dec. 1.

The program will feature members of the string section, socially distanced and wearing masks. Majkut says he chose music designed to soothe and lift spirits.

“Kernis’s ‘Musica Celestis’ indeed sounds like a choir of angels,” Majkut said. “The ‘Holberg Suite’ is subtitled, ‘Suite in Olden Style.’ It came to mind because every time I think of events before the pandemic, it feels like ancient history. ‘Romanian Folk Dances’ is on the program because no matter how much we are tested, we have to remember to laugh and dance.”

The first digital detour concert is part of the RVS YouTube channel archive.

The hour-long program includes interviews and performances by seven soloists who are members or friends of the orchestra. Capping the program is a two-piano number featuring maestro Majkut and guest pianist Alexander Tutunov, professor of piano and artist in residence at Southern Oregon University who performs internationally.

The performances were filmed in four intimate settings — the historic Siskiyou Barn, a home overlooking Ashland, a Medford home complete with a concert stage, and Tutunov’s home.

More concert detours in the spring will follow the symphony’s original performance schedule.

Joelle Graves, executive director, says that without the arts in their usual forms, RVS was forced to try a new direction.

“There was only one answer,” she said. “Find a way to perform.”

Majkut and Graves came up with the concept of offering digital concerts.

“Every challenge is an opportunity,” Majkut said. “We dream about being in the concert hall with an audience again. Nothing beats that feeling. However, the world still needs beauty.”

Meanwhile, the RVS educational programs continue, with professional musicians employed as resources to music teachers and students in the Rogue Valley.

The organization also collected instrument donations from the community to replace those lost by Phoenix and Talent students in the fires.

The RVS is already making plans for the 2021-22 season.

“We plan to produce some of the concerts from the unrealized 2020-21 season, but also add new content,” said Majkut. “I am working on several programs that could be easily adjusted to shorter presentations with no intermission. It all depends on how widespread the vaccines are.”

Traditionally, the following season is unveiled in February, but RVS is delaying its announcement for 2021-22 because of COVID-19 uncertainties.

“We are eager to be back in our concert halls,” he said, “but safety is of paramount importance.”

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

French horn player Alison Dresser and Rogue Valley Symphony music director Martin Majkut are videotaped for a digital performance. Photo by David Johnson