Arts Performing Arts

Blue Ridge Orchestra Presents “Revels! 2020”

Luke Shaver and Amanda Vollrath. Photo by Melon Wedick

The Blue Ridge Orchestra’s (BRO’s) Revels! 2020 holiday concert will be presented virtually from Friday, December 11, through Thursday, December 31. The performance will be available to watch free of charge on the orchestra’s website and on YouTube.

“Revels! has always been a highlight of the orchestra’s year, a celebration of togetherness that brings musicians and audience members who don’t ordinarily attend our concerts together for some holiday fun, and we weren’t willing to let COVID stop that,” says BRO executive director Melon Wedick.

Once it became evident that a fall concert series could not safely be conducted, the organization began looking for ways to stay connected to its musicians and to celebrate the holiday season. BRO interim music director John Gordon Ross programmed numerous versions of Revels! based on constantly fluctuating estimates of what might be possible. Contingency plans included everything from rehearsing outdoors, to working with groups no larger than trios, to piecing together a celebration out of musicians playing alone in their homes. The plan that came to fruition consists of small ensembles, masked and socially distanced, performing in the Henry LaBrun Studio at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

“In a way, this concert couldn’t be more different from past Revels!, but the spirit, joy and celebration are the same,” says Wedick. “This year might even be more joyful than most, given the world we’re living in. It’s been a really moving experience for everyone involved.”

Like so many artists and organizations who have transitioned to virtual events out of necessity, BRO staff and musicians have found a positive side to their situation. Wedick notes that working with instrumental sections individually highlights their unique voices, while up-close camera views provide online audiences an opportunity to see the physicality of the musicians interacting with their instruments in a way that isn’t possible from the back of an auditorium. Featured vocalist and BRO marketing and development director Amanda Vollrath cites the experience of rehearsing and recording at the Wortham Center as a highlight. “To be able to partner with them and use their incredible spaces was a true silver lining in all of this,” says Vollrath.

The concert features secular and sacred favorites performed by a variety of musical ensembles, including a woodwind quintet, a brass octet, a thirteen-piece string orchestra, a solo soprano with piano and a string quartet.

“I am thrilled to see how this year’s Revels! is received and I hope that it brings joy to all viewers,” says Vollrath. “As I sing on this program, and as a message from all of us at the Blue Ridge Orchestra, ‘Merry Christmas to You!’”

Revels! 2020 is sponsored by Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty. Though offered for free, the BRO is welcoming donations to help cover the cost of this project. For more information and to view, visit BlueRidgeOrchestra.org/bro-revels-2020 or contact info@blueridgeorchestra.org.

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