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  • Writer's pictureMatt Scinto

Orchestra plays among classic cars for 'American' concert

The Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra continues to explore offbeat venues for its streaming events.

Music director Matthew Scinto last month brought together the core of the orchestra to film a performance at the vintage auto barn at Sandwich’s Heritage Museums & Gardens. The concert — music by Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, William Grant Still and CCCO’s composer-in-residence Cody Forrest — will be available for free starting Wednesday on YouTube.

A concert from the vintage auto barn

“This is our third livestream, and it’s helping us to get in front of a new group of people,” Scinto says. “We’re actually building an audience at a faster pace, and we’re branching out all over Cape Cod.”

The orchestra’s third season has been limited to online events, and recording in the unique environment of the auto barn — home to more than 40 American cars from the first half of the 20th century — adds to the exoticism.

“I saw a youth orchestra concert there,” Scinto says. “I was struck by the octagon-shaped room, and the second level. The room has a warm sound, not dry at all. I knew I could utilize the space.”

Premiere of CCCO’s composer-in-residence Cody Forrest

Scinto chose the music with the museum in mind. He’s entitled the program “American Refuge,” and it includes Ives’ “Unanswered Question,” Copland’s “Quiet City,” Still’s “Serenade” and the world premiere of Forrest’s “Refuge.”

“Ives meant ‘Unanswered Question’ to be spatial,” Scinto says, “for the strings and woodwinds to sit apart. And ‘Quiet City’ works really well antiphonally — a lot of call and response. It’s not written that way but it works. There’s lots of room in the museum, and at the upper level.

“We’ve had Cody as composer-in-residence, but we haven’t been able to play his music. His ‘Refuge’ is perfect for the space. With William Grant Still’s ‘Serenade,’ it all fits together — an American music program in the ambiance of the museum.”

The video includes solo performances by trumpeter Kyle Spraker (on the Copland piece) and harpist Charles Overton (on "Refuge"). Scinto has interspersed a narrative history of the museum, and comments about the music, within the presentation. Audiences can sample this brief concert trailer to get a taste of the upcoming stream:

A return to live performances for the orchestra remains on hold. The CCCO, like all performing arts organizations, must wait for venues to reopen and the public to get re-accustomed to the idea of gathering together.

“We’re considering some outdoor options for the summer,” Scinto says, “but we will film another virtual program in May first. Maybe in the fall we might be able to come back with 50 percent of the audience, but I think it will probably be the end of the year.”

The CCCO’s third season hasn’t been a traditional one, certainly, with smaller musical ensembles because of social distance requirements, and no live audience. The toll on the musicians — all freelancers, and at the mercy of the gig economy — has been devastating.

COVID rules devastating to musicians

Most small enterprises like CCCO will survive — “the model of the orchestra is not kind to the artists,” Scinto points out, “but orchestras have survived because of this model.” Emerging from the pandemic back to some normalcy “will have to be a fluid transition,” he says. But there have been lessons learned from streaming concerts, and Scinto thinks some aspects of the online concert era will persist.

“I can’t imagine not doing this high-quality video,” he says. “I feel like when we get back, our audience size is going to be so much larger. The individuals watching online are mostly brand-new viewers. I’m still new to this, but I foresee a hybrid model when concerts start again.

“I think you’ll want to capture the audience that would not normally go to a concert. I can’t foresee stopping that.”

To reach that audience, Scinto has kept virtual CCCO concerts free.

“People are far more generous when they watch a free concert video,” Scinto says. “We had a nice grant from the town of Yarmouth for our last concert, and the Harwich Cultural Council supported this one. People have been donating, and we’ve been able to sustain our season.”

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