You may recall that last summer, I posted several videos I took from Chicago of a rehearsal of the Grant Park Orchestra, which puts on a series of classical music concerts during the summer. As I wrote at the time, "The Grant Park Orchestra is no slapdash group. Basically, it's the second major orchestra in the city, right behind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- but not very far behind. It's largely made up of members of the Chicago Civic Orchestra that plays for the Lyric Opera of Chicago." It's actually affiliated with the CSO as sort of an adjunct.
Well, as it happens, that Chicago Civic Orchestra celebrated their 100th anniversary this past Sunday, March 29. Needless-to-say, they had a gala concert planned, and of course had to cancel it. Instead, they put on a Virtual 100th Anniversary Gala, which they streamed online..
The orchestra itself didn't perform the full virtual concert itself -- I suspect that that would have been far too much of a challenge. But they did perform the opening of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, which they had planned to perform at the intended gala at Orchestra Hall -- because it was played at their very first concert 100 years earlier. It was done the same as these other orchestral videos, which members performing their parts to a click track, and then edited together -- and done so in a very creative, entertaining way.
The full virtual 100th anniversary concert lasts 35 minutes. For the remainder, the organization commissioned seven short world premieres specifically for the virtual concert. To be clear, these are not performed by the orchestra, but appear to be synthesizer performances or computerized by the composers themselves. (Mixed in with an audience applause track after each...) They are all very modern, and some some of them quite weird for my taste. If you don't want to listen to all of them all the way through, the most accessible are two pieces that start around the 24:00 mark. The first is Civic 100 by Josh Fink, followed by Reverse Forward by Liza Sobel. It's all introduced by the Chicago Civic Orchestra's music director Ken-David Masur.
The other day, a friend called me in a panic about some polls showing Trump's approval going up a few points since his daily campaign-rally "press conferences" filled with false-good news misinformation that's dangerous.
I explained a few thoughts. First, yes, I didn't hated seeing Trump's approval go up, it should be bordering on zero. But I understood it. He's on TV every day giving supposed "good news" (much that's untrue). In crises, people want to look to their leader to help help. At any time, people want to support the president. And right now, the numbers of infections and deaths are awful, but manageable, especially compared to the horror numbers we're hearing that are possible. Moreover, when he's on TV, all the news channels and networks cover him, that's all we see. We hardly see his Democratic opponent Joe Biden (or even Bernie Sanders or Speaker Nancy Pelois) much at all.
But, as I told my friend, the numbers of infections and deaths are -- tragically -- going to get overwhelmingly, horrifyingly worse. The "best" low estimates are 200,000 deaths, with infections in the millions. In two months, people will be going stir-crazy isolated in him. And their children out of school And out of work, unemployment payments stressing them. And the economy crashing around, diving into a clear recession, if not nearing a depression.
This is galling, ghastly news. And it's the perspective to under the snapshot that are polls.
I say this because on Monday, there was an important piece in the New York Times from well-regarded analyst Dave Leonhard. He says all this above, and more and far, far better.
A few snippets from an overview in Raw Story about the article –
“According to longtime political observer David Leonhardt, Donald Trump’s chances of being re-elected are diminishing every day as the economy continues to crash and Americans are dying because of the COVID-19 pandemic despite ‘snapshot polls’ saying voters are still supportive of him.
“Writing for the New York Times, the columnist notes that the full horrors of what is now occurring won’t fully be revealed for months to come — and for Trump, the resulting damage may be too much to overcome in November when voters head to the polls.
“…By way of explanation, he suggested that Trump’s focus in his daily press conferences with trying to put an optimistic spin on efforts to stem the coronavirus health crisis will likely blow up in his face as the deaths mount, businesses stay shut down and voters realize things are a long way from regaining any semblance of normalcy.”
There’s a lot more. You can read it here.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was on the air again, albeit from the host's home and in a low-key way. But it was nonetheless terrific. The topic was...oh, you know. They called this one, "Coronavirus III." And it was pointed, informative, and somehow often very funny.
Here's Joan Baez from her living room, not just performing but singing a tribute to the great singer-songwriter John Prine who is critically ill from the coronavirus, with one of Prine's own great songs, "Hello in There."
I'm going to add a bonus here. Because as good and touching as this is, Prine's own raspy performance of the song just reaches levels of texture that I've never heard anyone else touch.
For the past few years, I've written here about the wonderful National Theatre Live. The short version is that it's a program that streams live productions of the National Theatre in England to movie houses around the world. (They're live in certain areas, but for the most part, because of time differences, the shows are time -- and often, date -- delayed.)
Well, because theaters are closed down these days, the National Theatre Live series announced that they will be streaming "family friendly" productions from their archives online for free every Thursday for the next month at least. (It may continue.) Shows will begin at 7 PM UK time, though they don't have to be streamed at home that particular Thursday, but each will be available from its starting date.
You can get access to it all and with more information here.
Better still, as readers of these pages know, one of the shows they did is something I've repeatedly raved about and admonished people to go see when National Theatre Live has repeated -- One Man, Two Guvnors. It's absolutely wonderful, a hilarious farce, and when it subsequently played on Broadway, the star James Corden won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Well...here's the good news: One Man, Two Guvnors is going to be the first production they stream for free, starting this coming Thursday.
If one doesn’t like farces, it’s not for you, but otherwise it’s a joy The story centers on a total dimwit who gets hired to work for a thug – he then gets an even better offer to work for the thug’s rival. He takes both jobs, but can’t tell either one of them. And from there, the story spins out of total control.
Here's a one-minute clip from the show --
Here's how TimeOut in London describes the program. It's largely the same information as I noted above, though with a bit more detail --
"As numerous theatrical institutions across the world have opened up their archives in response to increasing lockdown restrictions, all eyes have remained on one organisation: the National Theatre in London, which has the greatest archive of cinema-quality recordings of stage plays of any theatre on the planet, thanks to its formidable NT Live programme. It’s designed to beam productions from the NT into cinemas across the country, but there are of course no cinemas in operation at present. So the NT is switching to its YouTube channel. From April 2, under the banner of National Theatre at Home, every Thursday (7pm GMT/2pm EST) will see a new National Theatre play released – free to watch for one week – along with bonus content including cast and creative Q&As and post-stream talks.
"There’s a definite emphasis on family-friendly good cheer for the line-up so far, which kicks off with a big hitter: Richard Bean’s beloved farce ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, starring a pre-chat-show-days James Corden. Over the next few weeks you can expect a string of family-friendly titles, though naturally there will be those hoping for some of the real NT Live blockbusters, notably ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Frankenstein’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch and ‘Coriolanus’ starring Tom Hiddleston."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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