LE PECQ, France (AP) – Look closely: the kettle drum player has a wooden spoon in one hand, a ladle in the other … and doesn’t even have his drums.
But, hey, cutting a few corners can be forgiven by an orchestra that has achieved the remarkable feat of playing “Bolero” while its musicians are scattered far and wide under the locks of coronaviruses.
Why? To send this message to music lovers: we are always there for you.
As if to build a musical puzzle, the National Orchestra of France used the magic of technology to weave together the sight and the sounds of its musicians, who filmed themselves playing alone at home in a noiseless and exciting ensemble.
Posting a video of their assembled performances on YouTube was a way to stay in touch with each other and the audiences they sorely miss playing for.
“For us, the public is essential. Without the public, we don’t really exist, “said Didier Benetti, the kettle drum player.
The video posted on Sunday quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views.
The performance begins with three musicians: a cellist, a violinist and a percussionist with “Stay home” written on his red drum.
A flautist joins, haunting, bewitching, apparently playing in his living room.
Musical tension and power grow as more and more come together, until they are an orchestra of 50 people.
Benetti has reorganized the work of French composer Maurice Ravel, reducing it from the usual 15 minutes to a more manageable and user-friendly duration for social media by just under four minutes.
The musicians obtained their scores by e-mail. They also got an audio track to listen to through headphones while they were playing. This audio included a previous recording of music and the sound of a metronome, to help them keep time and stay in unison despite their dispersal to the wind.
The musicians filmed themselves for four days during the last week of March. A violinist played outside, with a magnificent seascape in the background. Most of the others were filmed inside, which makes the performance particularly intimate. No black tie. The clothes were casual, with open shirts, T-shirts, jeans.
Dimitri Scapolan, video producer and sound engineer, burned the midnight oil to assemble the self-portrait sequences of the musicians into a remarkably coherent musical and visual patchwork.
For a softer sound, Scapolan also mixed audio from a previous performance that the orchestra recorded before the new coronavirus upset the world. France is one of the most affected countries in Europe, with more than 57,000 confirmed cases and 4,000 deaths.
When France locked out on March 17, Benetti couldn’t bring his big kettle drums home. Unlike the other musicians, he had to improvise for the video, pretending with enthusiasm to knock two chairs in his living room with utensils that he took from his kitchen.
Playing for the video was “very therapeutic,” but still felt like the best compared to being together on stage, said Benetti.
But isolation has an unexpected benefit.
“We are starting to realize that we really need each other,” he said. “Music is sharing. “
As non-stop global news about the effects of the coronavirus has become commonplace, so too have stories of the kindness of strangers and the people who sacrificed themselves for others. “One Good Thing” is an ongoing series of APs reflecting these acts of kindness.
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