Welcome to Play On California: A daily update on how musicians here in the Golden State are keeping the music playing while sheltering in place. While the concert halls are dark, tune in to KUSC weekdays at noon as we shine the spotlight on the great musicians from our Golden State. We’re also updating this blog daily, highlighting in detail some of the incredible efforts taken on by our arts communities. If you have any favorites to add, let us know in the comments. The Arts Heal. Music Unites. Play on!

With upcoming performances, and in many cases entire seasons, now canceled or postponed, musicians are locked out of concert halls. But arts organizations and individual performers are finding new ways to share their music with audiences, and to keep our spirits up. Here are some stand-outs.

San Francisco Conservatory of Music students are taking to the stage for what they’re calling the Tiny Dorm Concert Series, making the most of staying where they are, and still having a chance to reach an audience. The concerts will be live-streamed from 5:00 to 6:30 in the evening from Friday the 27th through April 11th. There’s a schedule at the website. The performers will range from Pre-College and Conservatory programs, as well as faculty players, and SFCM alumni. And students from their Recording Department will help with technical support and logistics for the artists.

Pacific Symphony @ Home is the new digital initiative launched by Orange County’s renowned orchestra in an effort to stay connected to its audience, and keep the music flowing. The first installments include “The Bach Project”—Principal Cellist Warren Hagerty’s 36-day traversal of the complete Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, one movement per day. Music Director Carl St. Clair shares YouTube listening picks, and concertmaster Dennis Kim performs Amanda Harberg’s “Prayer,” which Kim says possesses proven healing powers.

Like musicians everywhere who find themselves locked out of concert halls, cafes, churches, and opera houses, Los Angeles Philharmonic Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour is staying in tip-top musical shape by practicing at home. Within a matter of days, he prepared this mini-recital of music by Prokofiev, J.S. Bach, and Telemann. It’s the first video offering in a new series called LA Phil at Home.

Violinist Daniel Hope has launched [email protected]New Century Chamber Orchestra music director’s contribution to the virtual concert world, which he is streaming daily, live at 10am Pacific time (he’s in Germany now) with pianist Max Raabe. You can see the first one here, with details and links to the live stream in the description.

This week San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a 2.5 million dollar plan to help artists and cultural organizations that have been left with canceled concerts and performances because of the COVID-19. Grants and low-interest loans will be directed toward some of the hardest hit individuals and organizations. Mayor Breed said: “Our artists and cultural institutions are at the heart of who we are as a City and a community. This community is also getting hit hard right now as people are suffering from job loss, business closures, and economic disruption during the COVID-19 outbreak. We need to do everything we can to stabilize our arts community now. I hope our public investment will encourage private donors to join us in supporting our vulnerable artists during this challenging time.”

Over the next several weeks, San Francisco Symphony is releasing its Keeping Score series of programs for free on its YouTube channel. They’re nine deep dives into the history and stories behind masterworks of great composers, hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas, followed by full performances by the Symphony. The first set, available now, begins with Copland, Ives, and Shostakovich, and in coming weeks, it continues with Mahler, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. The series gives context for the works, and how the lives of the composers led them to write the Eroica, Rite of Spring, or Symphonie Fantastique.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has just unveiled plans to stream full-length concerts for free at laco.org beginning this weekend. On Saturday, March 28th at 8pm and Sunday, March 29th at 7pm (coinciding with now canceled LACO concerts),.the orchestra will present a video of their recent concert featuring the West Coast premiere of Dark with Excessive Bright, a new concerto for double bass by much-in-demand American composer Missy Mazzoli, LACO artist-in-residence. The featured soloist is LACO principal bass David Grossman and Music Director Jaime Martín conducts. Popular works of Ravel, Stravinsky and Prokofiev complete the program. The concert will subsequently be available on demand.


Jaime Martín | Photo by Ben Gibbs

A second streamed program is scheduled for next Thursday, April 2nd at 7:30 pm. It showcases several LACO musicians in performances recorded especially for the new streaming initiative. A highlight: the orchestra’s longtime Concertmaster Margaret Batjer playing music of Bach for solo violin. Their program will also be subsequently available on-demand.

Pasadena-based MUSE/IQUE, under Artistic Director and Conductor Rachel Worby, has raised the digital curtain on a series called MUSE/IQUE In A Minute! (…Or Two). Performances by musicians who appear regularly on MUSE/IQUE’s programs are featured in videos distributed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:30pm on MUSE/IQUE’s YouTube channel and on Instagram.

California Symphony had to postpone the world premiere of the final work by its Young American Composer in Residence, Katherine Balch, but while the orchestra is unable to play, Music Director Donato Cabrera is blogging about his favorite recordings and performances under the umbrella title “The Music Plays On.” He includes links to the music, frequently with video, on YouTube, and pieces he’s covered so far include Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, Allegri’s Miserere, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale has posted an excerpt from its exquisite recent performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. Some individual members of the Chorale have also been posting their own living room performances, and there is more digital content from the Chorale to come.

Francesco Lecce-Chong, music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony has set up several “watch parties” from his Facebook page, with video introductions to the works, and comments and commentary along the way in real-time.

Berkeley Symphony’s Principal Second Violinist, Dan Flanagan, has recorded some solo Bach as part of his ‘Corona Quarantine Concerts’ (in the company of some artworks by impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, and his descendants).

Camerata Pacifica, the popular chamber series which plays each subscription concert in four locations throughout Southern California, was quick to offer digital content when its spring concerts were canceled. Recent performances you can catch on video on the group’s website range from an early masterwork by Beethoven for string trio to a work for solo oboe by contemporary English composer Emma-Ruth Richards, featuring world-renowned oboist Nicholas Daniel. All the performances are first-rate.

Check back for daily updates! If there’s anything you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.

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