Saturday, September 19, 2020
Sun Valley Music Festival Streamed Around the Globe
Time for Three was among those entertaining concertgoers on the lawn during the finale. PHOTO: Nils Ribi/Sun Valley Music Festival
Saturday, August 22, 2020


A thousand hours per concert.

That’s how many hours on average went into producing each of the 14 Sun Valley Music Festival concerts that were streamed across laptops, personal computer screens and two big jumbo screens on the Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn during the past three weeks.

Multiple cameramen, video and sound technicians and 128 artists shot in 43 cities across North America--it added up, said Derek Dean, the executive director of the Sun Valley Music Festival.

This map shows the places where viewers tuned into the 14 concerts.

And Music Director Alasdair Neale put in plenty of those hours as he went over and over 50 different recordings per orchestra piece.

“He’d listen to them and say, ‘Wait! I’m supposed to hear a piccolo there. So, they’d add the piccolo. Then he would decide Horn No. 3 was louder than Horn No. 1 so he had to tone one down. When the viola came in late, he isolated it and brought it back in when it was in time with the rest of the orchestra,” said Dean. “They made it their priority to get the best audio recording so then they had to get video that correlated to that audio. It was very time consuming. But, on the other hand, Alasdair had a lot of fun.”

The Sun Valley Music Festival’s 36th summer season ended with a flourish on Wednesday with an enthralling performance from a percussion trio, Time for Three’s “Orange Blossom Special” and Respighi’s “Pines of the Appian Way.”

Preceding it were opportunities to watch Orion Weiss’s fingers fly across the ivories, a creative kaleidoscope of horns players and a chance to hear four cellists play the Beatles’ “When I’m 64.” There was the breathtaking spectacle of watching the train of Polina Sedukh’s stunning red dress cover the length of her walk through Grace Cathedral as she played Mazzoli’s “Vespers for Violin.”

Lawngoers found most evenings very pleasant weather wise. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Kelli O’Hara waltzed through Broadway favorites. Mason Bates and Alasdair mimicked “Star Trek” as they performed “Mothership.” A tiny violinist recounted how she plays violin for the potatoes she and her violinist mother planted. And then there was Linda Lukas’ 14-karat gold flute with its silver keys.

The only glitch came on the night of the finale when YouTube flagged Weiss’s performance of Brahms’ Romance in F Major for potential copyright issues 90 minutes before the concert streaming was to begin. Another pianist had a recording of the piece copyrighted on YouTube.

The Festival protested saying that no one can copyright Brahms’ composition or prevent others from performing it. But YouTube said it would prevent the broadcast from airing while a wrongful infringement claim was pursued, leading to a 15-minute delay for those watching the performance at home.

The lawn audience saw the program in its entirety.

Judy Getto is the new board president of the Sun Valley Music Festival.

About 10,000 people watched the performances while safely distanced on the Pavilion Lawn. Another 70,000 tuned into the concerts while gathered around a laptop on their dining room tables or patios. Viewers tuned in from as far away as Japan, South America, South Africa, Australia and parts of Europe. A few even tuned in from Russia on the evening that pianist Daniil Trifonov played.

“We definitely got a global audience this time,” said Dean.

Dean said he doesn’t have the final numbers yet.

“I think it’s a bit more expensive than our normal seasons but not a lot because it’s expensive to bring a hundred musicians here and pay for condos, rental cars…” he said.

The generosity of the Sun Valley community and people meeting “humanly impossible deadlines” enabled it to take place free of charge when other communities fell silent, said Neale.

Dean said the festival has received an enormous amount of positive feedback, including that of musicians who enjoyed being able to watch the orchestra play for the first time.

Neale said he felt their absence every day of the six weeks he was in Sun Valley.

“I expect when we gather here next there’ll be an explosion of great music making that will reflect how much we missed one another,” he added.

Dean said many of the musicians and production crew said they would gladly do this again, if need be. And, he added, the Festival learned it could produce a few performances to stream as part of getting more music out year-round.

Many of the musicians were also grateful, as it was the only work they’d had since the pandemic started.

“But everyone does really want to come back in person,” he added. “They enjoy seeing one another and their friends here. It’s like a big family reunion every year.’

Dean said everyone was so busy putting the finishing touches on this summer season that they haven’t had time to consider the third annual Winter Festival, virus permitting.

But leading the charge will be Judy Getto, who has been elected the new board president of the Sun Valley Music Festival.

Getto takes over for outgoing Board President Sue Monson, who completed her term on Aug. 20. Monson served on the board for nine years—three and a half as president. During that time, she filled an executive director position, oversaw a name change and rebranding, helped launch the Winter Season and guided the organization through its just-finished reimagined Summer Season.

Getto has served on the board for two years.

Monson said she was excited to turn over the presidency to “an experienced, enthusiastic and eminently capable woman.”

“Judy Getto and her husband are great lovers of music, and she has served many years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Music Academy of the West,” Monson said. “Her familiarity with music education has served as well, and we are looking forward to continuing to grow and thrive under her leadership.”

Getto earned a Bachelor of Art in Psychology from Cornell University before completing a Master of Arts in Psychology of Urban Planning at the University of Missouri. She has a PhD in Educational/Developmental Psychology with the University of California.

She has served on several education boards and advisory committees for The Center for Early Education, San Francisco University High School, Harvard-Westlake Parent Board, the Marlborough School Parent Board and others.

She has also served with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco Public Library.

Getto said she was honored to follow Monson as president of the Sun Valley Music Festival Board.

“Sue has been a pillar of strength, commitment and good will,” she said. “The Festival is an integral part of the fabric of our community, providing classical music throughout the year with the Summer and Winter Seasons, year-round music education for the children of our valley and, as we have experienced during this unique summer, innovative, inspiring and entertaining video programs. This is an organization that meets every challenge, and I hope to do the same.”



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