Stories » LACO at Home - Putting an orchestra on, during a pandemic / San Francisco Classical Voice

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LACO at Home - Putting an orchestra on, during a pandemic / San Francisco Classical Voice

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On July 14, Marc Sazer, one of Los Angeles's premier studio musicians (president of the Recording Musicians Association and violinist with the Pasadena Symphony) went to work for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down live recording sessions. But from the moment Sazer pulled his car onto to the lot at Twentieth Century Fox, it was clear the world had changed entirely.

For months, a consortium of studio and orchestra administrators, local unions, government officials, and infectious disease specialists had worked to establish a set of protocols that could establish a safe environment for musicians to perform in - whether on the studio soundstage or the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.

"This has certainly been the most difficult period of my career - as well as my colleagues' - to have concert halls silent," said Margaret Batjer, LACO's concertmaster. "Since we were kids, we've been making music for other people. To have that taken away has felt like an assault. Realizing I was not going to be able to perform was devastating. Then LACO began reaching out and we did a series of 40-minute programs called LACO at Home. That led to our first group concerts at the Colburn School, our SummerFest.

"It was a very long process," Batjer explained. "LACO is a union orchestra and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) began putting out some pretty firm guidelines, with the understanding that each local would tweak them based on the medical information available. Our local union had many discussions with our management and our orchestra committee, as well as the Colburn School [which operates Zipper Hall.] I was getting so many emails saying, ‘I want to play!'"

Margaret Batjer said; "The playing was wonderful, and the musicians poured their hearts out," she said. "But when it ended and there was no audience to respond: The silence was deafening."

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