The Santa Fe Symphony held out hope as long as possible for its traditional fall performance season but it canceled all events originally scheduled for September through December. They’ll be replaced by a series of online performances for small ensembles October through December, with the repertory for the canceled concerts slated to return during the fall of 2021.
However, it is still possible to hear a symphony musician perform live this fall, albeit under very different conditions. The group’s new SFS 1:1 program features a solo symphony musician playing a 10-minute concert for one audience member at one of several outdoor venues around Santa Fe. Each environment allows for appropriate distancing, and the chairs are sanitized after every performance.
The concept was put into practice this spring by the Stuttgart State Orchestra and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, after having been developed by the Juilliard-trained German flutist Stephanie Winker. A key part of the experience is its unusual beginning: at least 30 seconds of silent eye contact between player and audience member.
“We are craving contact at this point; we have all been staring at screens for hours and hours,” Winker told The New York Times in June. “You forget that staring into people’s eyes for a long time is incredibly powerful.”
After the visual connection, the musician decides what repertory to play, with no applause or talking at its conclusion. “People often emerge nearly punch-drunk from the concerts,” the Times reported, “dazed after experiencing such a direct interaction with an artist, and with art.”
Jesse Tatum, the Santa Fe Symphony’s principal flute, brought the project to the orchestra’s attention via its artistic committee. Unlike most orchestras, in which artistic decisions are made by a music director, the SFS vests the authority in a group that includes a majority of musicians, as well as Executive Director Daniel M. Crupi and principal conductor Guillermo Figueroa. “Everyone was really excited about it,” Crupi says. “We knew it was something we could execute successfully no matter what coronavirus restrictions were in place.”
The players are earning their standard fees for rehearsal time and for each two-and-a-half-hour performance block. Participating symphony members include violinists Jennie Baccante, David Felberg, and Gabriela da Silva Fogo; cellist Joel Becktell; oboists Elaine Heltman and Rebecca Ray; bassoonist Stefanie Przbylska; and horn player Jeffrey Rogers.
Venues are the Santa Fe Children’s Museum’s community garden, the rooftop at Thornburg Investment Management, Museum Hill Café, and the garden at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s A.M. Bergere House. Patrons will know the time, date, and place of their performance but not the identity of the player. “It’s part of the mystery of the event,” Crupi says.
The big difference from the German model is that the performances there were free; here, they come at the robust price of $50 or $100 for a couple, a figure made necessary, Crupi says, by the vast difference in government support for the arts. Reservations are available from late August through September (505-983-3530, santafesymphony.org/one-on-one). They can also be purchased for donation to a Santa Fe Public Schools student or someone who has been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.