The pandemic has challenged all of us to find the "next best thing" in so many circumstances—and music is no different. Orion is thrilled to offer a full season this year, playing live at its three usual locations: Aurora, Evanston (two venues) and Chicago. And, at Chicago and in Evanston (Nichols Hall), Orion will also continue to livestream its concerts.
"There's nothing that can replace live music; that is a given," says Orion's clarinetist, Kathy Pirtle. "But livestreaming has allowed us to reach people who can't get to our concerts in person—for many different reasons."
Orion performed its first live and livestreamed concert from its Chicago venue, PianoForte, which was an easy transition. Long before COVID, Founder and Executive Director Thomas Zoells designed PianoForte Studios with the highest-quality equipment to be able to livestream concerts as part of his offerings. Given that the venue size is small, as safe congregating and playing slowly opened up, Orion was able to perform a live concert at PianoForte for a small number of audience members that was also livestreamed, meaning it could be viewed online on YouTube.
While not the same as experiencing the magic of live music, viewing concerts remotely has obvious benefits—and can also create its own magic. One listener who watched an Orion concert livestreamed was so moved by the concert that she emailed Orion to let the ensemble know how important listening to the music had become to her during a difficult time:
- “I cannot come [to the concert], as during COVID, I've been in Michigan caring for my father and doing my work remotely from here. I will watch it, though, on YouTube and I'm so grateful—so, so, so grateful—that you are doing this concert. I watched your April concert last night and it is like a lifeline to something so beautiful and so meaningful in these tremendously difficult times. Thank you so much! I loved the piece you played. I watched it again this morning. Sublime!”
It was an easy decision for Orion to keep livestreaming its music this season—and the ensemble will probably continue to do so. Rather than a replacement of live music, Pirtle views it as expanding Orion's reach.
"For us to be able to reach out to people and offer this place of joy, solace, camaraderie and community is what we all need," she says, noting that when there is technology capable of producing high-quality sound that allows people who can't get to concerts the ability to access them, Orion should use it. Orion welcomes people to view its livestreamed concerts at no charge. Pirtle notes that some viewers have chosen to make a donation as they are able, but this is completely optional.
Not just for Orion, but for many classical music groups, it appears that offering livestreaming as a concert experience option may be here to stay. "To me, the impact of the music is so much stronger when you are in the presence of people in the same space," Pirtle says. "But people are still connecting through livestreaming, so why not?"