National Philharmonic virtually presents ‘Music That Celebrates Home’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Music That Celebrates Home' (Part 1)

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into another year, many of us have become very familiar with life at home.

The National Philharmonic presents the virtual concert “Music That Celebrates Home” at 2 p.m. Sunday for its biweekly chamber series, streaming online and on WETA.

“Since we are all at home all the time this year, we wanted to have a program that represented that idea,” concert master Laura Colgate told WTOP. “I certainly haven’t spent this much time at home as a traveling musician constantly on the road. There’s something comforting about getting to know your neighbors and actually sit down.”

The concert was filmed at Meridian near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station.

“It’s actually a really beautiful space to perform,” Colgate said. “The acoustic there is really lush and nice, especially for string players. It’s almost the exact opposite of what you think of with AMP, which is this dark, nighttime vibe. Meridian has all of this marble and surfaces that the sound really pops off of and big windows with lots of sunlight.”

It was all obviously filmed under social distancing protocols.

“National Philharmonic this season is playing for no live audiences,” music director Piotr Gajewski told WTOP. “We alternate between orchestra concerts and chamber concerts, being just a handful of musicians. Now that the pandemic is hitting us particularly hard, we are concentrating on [the latter]. They’re all wearing masks.”

The program features Regino Madrid (violin), Derek Powell (violin), Bill Neri (viola), Lori Barnet (cello), Elizabeth Hill (piano) and Lauren Weaver (librarian).

The songbook includes Philip Glass’ “Metamorphosis II,” arranged by Michael Riesman.

“[Most are] composers that have some kind of tie into our locality,” Gajewski said. “Philip Glass is originally from Baltimore [and] is the third most played composer in the world right now, so we’re obviously very proud to be performing his music.”

Other local pieces include “Coyote Turns” by Alexandra Gardner and “The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks” by Caroline Shaw, the youngest Pulitzer Prize winner for music.

“Alexandra Gardner is from D.C. but is based in Baltimore,” Colgate said. “We’re also partnering with Dumbarton Oaks, using some of the images from the grounds and buildings. … Caroline Shaw was in residence there a few years back and wrote this piece based on the grounds there. Each movement is based on a different part.”

You’ll also hear “String Quartet No. 1-II, Adagio,” by local composer Adolphus Hailstork.

“If you watched the Inauguration, you heard his music: ‘Fanfare On Amazing Grace,'” Gajewski said. “He lives in Norfolk, Virginia, African-American composer, terrific.”

It all fittingly wraps with Harold Arlen’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“We were going with this theme of ‘there’s no place like home,'” Colgate said. “We just stuck ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ at the end of the concert. We’re going to be partnering with National Geographic and showing some images from all over the world with rainbows, so I think it’s going to be visually stunning.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Music That Celebrates Home' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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