WCF Symphony celebrates Beethoven with virtual concert

The Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony held the final virtual concert in their “Beethoven 250 week” on Saturday Oct. 3 at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center

KAYLA LAWRENCE, Staff Writer

For those classical music lovers who thought being able to attend a concert in 2020 was nothing but a pipe dream, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony did everything in their power to create an affordable and accessible concert experience for their audience.

The WCF Symphony concert Saturday, Oct. 3 debuted on YouTube live at 7 p.m. The concert, titled “Celebrating Beethoven,” brought an end to their Beethoven 250 week, in which they celebrated the composer’s 250th birthday. Throughout the week, the WCF Symphony held various events hosted on Facebook, YouTube and radio that, like the concert, allowed their audience to attend virtually. These events like the behind-the-scenes of the concert, and “Radio Hour: Interpreting Beethoven,” were well-thought-out to allow for audience engagement and participation, resulting in successful and fun times.

Virtual doesn’t mean boring or second-rate, and the WCF Symphony certainly proved that. By going out of their way to smartly utilize their technology, the audience for the concert  had the added benefit of being able to talk during the performance. While this is usually a big concert etiquette no-no as it is disruptive, the performance for last night’s concert was actually filmed “live to tape.” This means the symphony performed on stage without an audience while complying with COVID-19 guidelines, while being filmed and then the video was later cleaned up and edited, then streamed live on YouTube the night of the concert. This resulted in a seamless concert debut with clear professional sound, close up changing visuals and intermittent talking points that were engaging and personable. And it was not just the regular attendees who were able to enjoy the music as a member of the audience; the musicians, camera crew and conductor filled the virtual seats to their own performance.

Jason Weinberger, the WCF Symphony’s artistic director and conductor, took this as an opportunity to open a chat box beside the livestream and respond to any audience questions or comments. The official account for the symphony itself also took part. They tag teamed responses to enthusiastic audience members, explaining the concept of “live to tape,” expressing excitement for the rest of the concert season and rejoicing when over 100 people tuned in to watch.

Though nothing can quite compare to the feeling of the live, in-person concert experience, the WCF Symphony, Gallagher Bluedorn team, Cedar Falls cable Channel 15 camera crew and the Iowa Public Radio put their all into producing the next best thing for their audience. If you asked Weinberger what he thought about the production of their opening concert to the season, he would express the same.

“This pandemic has turned the performing arts upside down,” Weinberger said. “The fact that we are able to present this program to you is a product of the remarkable work of our staff, partners, volunteers and musicians!”

The concert will remain up on the WCF Symphony YouTube channel indefinitely, along with past and future events. To donate or learn more, visit their website at wcfsymphony.org .