Like all of us, Friends of Music Concerts (FoM) has had to adjust to the reality of Covid-19. FoM has brought world-class chamber music to the River Towns for over 60 years, and the group had a full season of concerts booked for 2020/2021 – three in the Fall 2020, and three more in Spring 2021. But when musicians can’t travel, and when gathering an audience in an auditorium is impossible, what can you do? Your members don’t get the performances they want, and, worse, the musicians don’t get paid.
FoM Board Chair and Ossining resident Susan Harris, along with her Board colleagues, found a great solution. They established a Front Row Sponsorship with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which allows FoM to stream videos of classical music concerts. These videos are only available for limited periods. Details of the six(!) Spring 2021 concerts can be found at the Concert Series on their website.
Harris points out that the videos have some advantages over live performances: “You can see things that you can’t see in a live performance.” And of course, you can repeat a video performance. Importantly, musicians are being paid. “Many musicians are struggling and our streaming concerts are helping them survive this pandemic,” she adds.
The video concerts are paid for by the members of Friends of Music, but they’re available to all, at no cost. Each one is only available for a short period. The website gives details.
Meanwhile, several of the performers whose concerts in 2020 and spring 2021 had to be cancelled, have been successfully rescheduled into fall 2021, or beyond. This includes PUBLIQuartet, nominated for a 2020 Grammy, and Pacifica Quartet, nominated for a 2021 Grammy.
Why do these and so many other successful performers come to play for Friends of Music at Sleepy Hollow High School? Former FoM chair and Croton resident Betsy Weiner has some ideas. First, she says, if they’re already in New York City, either touring or because they live in this area, they don’t have to travel far to get here. And, “They love our audiences!”
Friends of Music Concerts has been part of life in the River Towns since 1954. The first concert was given by a fledgling chamber music group called the Juilliard String Quartet which has gone on to a National Academy Recording Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Among other many notable performers are the Emerson Quartet, and pianists Jeremy Denk and Yefim Bronfman.
Originally, FoM concerts took place at Ossining High School but since 2010 performances have been held at Sleepy Hollow High School. FoM draws its members widely within the community, and beyond.
Friends of Music also does a lot for younger members of the community. The society’s Partnership in Education program sends talented young musicians like PUBLIQuartet into Westchester high schools to perform, conduct master classes for music students, and talk about their lives as professional musicians.
Unfortunately those visits can’t happen during a Covid lockdown either, but sometime in 2021 Friends of Music hopes to be able to start them up again.