NOVEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 27

NOVEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 27
November 25, 2020 leonard slatkin

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”
—Erma Bombeck

All of a sudden, there is a break in the gloom. For the first time in quite a while, people are actually starting to believe there will be a future. Perhaps for that reason, many are still acting irresponsibly. More on that in a minute.

With the possibility of three vaccines being available as early as next month, it is not out of the question to look at what lies ahead in terms of—well, almost everything. Schools can start to plan for the winter semester, and if not that, the spring. Businesses will look carefully at their books and determine how best to get back to work. Musicians will be thinking about what it will be like to perform with their colleagues again.

All this is positive news, but we cannot get ahead of the game too much. With seasons having been postponed or cancelled, getting back on track will not come easily for many institutions. More than likely, most orchestras here in the States will see their musicians performing together as a unit for the first time in nearly a year, a long time to have been away from the ensemble.

At this point, no one knows when the general populace will be inoculated, and it is difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy when our concert halls will be open for business. To make matters more confusing, we do not yet have information regarding the follow-up injection. For the serum to take full effect, two doses will be required, followed by a period of time to build up antibodies.

A distressing sign has been evident on our television screens: millions of people jamming into airports, getting away for the holiday. If ever there was a time to be careful, this is it. With daily case records being shattered, is it possible that the public thinks that just the idea of a vaccine will make COVID go away? We all understand the desire to be with friends, family, and loved ones at this time of year, but risking health consequences is just not worth the trouble.

Yet plans must be made, even if they have to be cancelled later. I am supposed to have a lengthy European/Asian tour starting at the beginning of February. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t. One frustration for conductors is studying all that music and never even having the opportunity to lead it.

Speaking of which, how are the musical performances going to work at the inauguration? Will everyone attending the ceremony be socially distanced and masked? That will make one strange photo for the history books. This prolonged delay in proclaiming a president has truly put our patience to the test. It remains to be seen how much can be accomplished or undone in the first few months of the new leadership.

There are no illusions as to what a different vision of the United States will mean for the arts—not much, as we have other obstacles and hurdles to overcome. Our path forward will not rest with the federal, state, and local governments. The private sector will bear the burden, and hopefully it will respond quickly to keep the arts alive.

On November 24th, the Recording Academy announced the nominees for the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. I am happy to report that a recording I led of Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers has been nominated in the Best Choral Performance category, a nomination I will share with directors of the various choirs involved. Recorded two years ago during a concert at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., this project was a true labor of love and among the most memorable events in my long musical life. This is my thirty-fifth nomination since the first one back in 1978. My parents actually won a couple in 1958, the very first year that the statuette came into being.

Is it really true that being nominated is honor enough? Probably for first or second timers, yes, but there is a certain feeling of elation when your name is called out as the winner. Since the GRAMMY is the music industry’s only award given by peers, it carries a lot of prestige. Maybe it sells a few more copies of the recording. More importantly, though, it continues to validate the industry. The awards now span eighty-three categories, but there are also many more releases than ever before.

So with a vaccine on the way, a new cast of characters in the White House, and a potential resumption of concert life, there is much to be thankful for. And if I can’t make it to France, perhaps a visit to the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 31st might be in order.