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  • Writer's pictureMatt Scinto

Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra switches to virtual concert

CAPE COD TIMES Keith Powers, Contributing Writer Link to original story

A streaming program, filmed and recorded a few weeks ago with a dozen string players at the Yarmouth New Church, will be available as of Friday night. In three years, Matthew Scinto has seen more than most conductors experience in decades. Founding an orchestra, and building an audience, is hard enough in normal times.

Scinto’s Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra managed that in a few short years, building an enthusiastic following for the Harwich Port–based ensemble. Scinto also created a distinctive identity for the orchestra around his unusual repertory choices.

But the pandemic has shut down performing groups around the country, so has stalled the chamber orchestra’s accomplishments. With an audience that couldn’t gather safely, and musicians who couldn’t even rehearse, the CCCO had to find an alternate path. “If this had happened 10 years down the line, we’d be even worse off,” he says. “We’re small now, and we can try to adjust. But our revenue model was destroyed. When 45 percent of your budget comes from ticket sales...” There’s no need to finish that thought.

But the CCCO will forge ahead with a concert season, online and free. A streaming program called “Virtual Concert I: Spatial Sonorities,” filmed and recorded a few weeks ago with a dozen string players at the Yarmouth New Church, will be available as of Friday night, then can be seen at any time on the orchestra’s website, YouTube and social media thereafter. The program for the online performance features Scinto’s typical mixture of rarely heard music (Peter Warlock’s “Capriol Suite,” William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child”) with familiar repertory (Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” Mozart’s Divertimento in F).

If you watch What: “Virtual Concert I: Spatial Sonorities” Presented by: The Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra When: Available starting at 7 p.m. Friday Where:, the orchestra’s Facebook page and on YouTube Information: 508-348-9202 or

“I try to find a good blend, a contemporary piece or something from the 20th century, and have contrast in the program” with better-known pieces, Scinto says. Sometimes, the rarely heard music “is a stretch, but nobody is performing this music out there.”

It was disappointing for Scinto to have to set aside concert programs he had spent so much time preparing for this season. He says he loves “crafting something where concertgoers can find some hook, especially if it’s community-driven.” The orchestra recently won first prize, for example, in the Orchestral Performance, Professional Division of the 2019-20 American Prize Competition for a program that included a new piece commissioned in partnership with the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port.

But Scinto expects audiences will eventually see the programs he planned for 2020. “Our original programs (for this season) might have to change — the live-stream can’t be as long as a regular concert — but I can put them in my pocket for later.”

The virtual program was recorded with safe practices at the restored Yarmouth New Church in Yarmouth Port — “a really cool space,” Scinto says. “We had 12 musicians, including me. We are masked, and distanced. Actually everyone wore masks except for me — I felt like a lot of expression is done with my face, and the players are a pretty expressive group.

“It was weird hearing live music again, with actual harmony next to you and surrounded by sound. The hall is lively, and it sounds like a much larger orchestra. I was pleased with how (the concert) came out.”

The scaled-back program — about one hour, without intermission — is a film, not a live concert, so Scinto added some extras. “We did an eight-minute documentary about the project, about not playing for six months, a little about the program and the space that we’re playing in. Then we get right into the music.”

Upcoming programs will adapt to the changing COVID-19 situation related to gatherings. A December concert will probably become another online film. Scinto avoids typical holiday fare, and had planned an ambitious offering that included Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” and Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1915.”

Again, length for an online show became an issue. “I can’t imagine doing that concert virtually, so I’ll have some contingency plan,” he says.

And for 2021? “I’m not about to cancel our spring season yet. We’re flexible enough to make adjustments.”

For now, the season begins online. While this program is free, there will be a suggested donation, and the group still offers subscriptions and its popular musician support program. “I didn’t want to put it behind a paywall,” Scinto says. But “the only way we can afford to do this is through donations.”

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