Sanders

Sharon’s Cassotto Duo — pianist Annemieke McLane and accordionist Jeremiah McLane — performed the first live in-person concert Aug. 21, presented by the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph.

Central Vermont had a very special day Aug. 21, the return of live music not made for a virtual-only audience. As a musician, playing for a receptive audience is part of what makes us do what we do. There is nothing like the energy you feel on stage from an engaged audience.

I am sure that for many reasons the Cassotto Duo felt this for the Chandler concert. The Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival certainly has its devoted local audience, but its world-class music in the heart of Vermont has also enticed a percentage of audience members from outside the Randolph community.

As artistic director of the CVCMF, I was thrilled that Annemieke and Jeremiah McLane were willing to be the first “experiment.” As was reported, the McLane family lost their home to a devastating fire a couple of weeks before the concert was to take place. In this case, making music was therapeutic for performers and audience alike.

Thanks to Chandler’s capacity, an in-person audience of up to 75 people could be managed. Playing to only a virtual audience is now always an option, but it has been some five months since a live audience has been inside most theaters. Here was our opportunity to start what is likely to be a long road back. Chandler and I felt that our “experiment” was a great success. Forty-five people in the hall and 95 viewed and listened via the live stream.

Seventy-five in-person audience members is a small number, but given the restrictions and concerns for a truly “live” concert, we were excited by the fact that there were people eager to attend in person. And frankly, although I was enjoying the concert from my home in New Jersey, hearing a live audience react was heartwarming. This is what it is all about.

As a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, I am quite concerned about when the New York music/arts businesses and others around the globe will be able to start taking the small steps towards recovery. COVID-19 has taken an immense toll on all the arts.

We will come back, but in my opinion it must be done in small increments. I understand that this will be a great financial stress for any ensemble or institution and gaining the trust of the audience and artists alike is no small task. But just like our central Vermont experiment, we must try — a little bit at a time.

Each performance space has its own inherent issues whether it is the Lincoln Center houses, Broadway, large pop music arenas, jazz clubs and smaller venues. There are many regional music organizations and seasonal festivals as well. Although it is my livelihood, I must tell you that I can’t wait for the day that I can play for another in-person and responsive audience. Here is my secret: I love making music, and it sustains me.

I can’t thank my audience enough for its many years of support, making music in the Chandler has been a BIG part of my life. Now, I and all my colleagues around the world need your assistance. Help us create the patchwork quilt that will bring us all back together and do, in whatever capacity you feel you can, support your favorite arts institution. We will all be better for it.

The arts industry supports many related businesses such as restaurants and travel. Be encouraged by the festival’s in-person audience on Aug. 21, and let others know that you are willing to take a chance on live music again. Reach out to the small and large groups and venues and tell them you miss being enriched with live arts experiences. Symphonic, dance, opera, chamber music, jazz, Broadway, rock, pop — so many artists are waiting to bring these ever important parts of our society back.

Live art is good for the heart, the community and economy as well. Help us get back on track. Support live arts in any way you can.

Peter Sanders is founder and artistic director of the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival and a longtime cellist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

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