In musical terms, a crescendo represents a gradual increase in loudness and intensity – and that’s exactly what the PRISMA Festival and Academy is hoping to achieve this summer.
Through a series of daily livestreamed masterclasses, lessons, workshops, concerts and chamber music pop-ups starting in mid-June, the organization will begin making its steady comeback toward a full-scale international event in 2022.
“It’s very exciting that we can now start rebuilding,” says Arthur Arnold, PRISMA’s artistic director and co-founder. “Our 2021 festival is still going to look much different than usual with only seven guest artists from BC coming to Powell River to perform and teach online, but at least it’s a return to live music and human connection, and that’s so important.”
Up until early May, organizers were planning to convene an orchestra made up of 30 BC-based string players but ultimately decided there were still too many risks and uncertainties to proceed. Instead, students will now be receiving their lessons and masterclasses online, save for a sextet who will be studying in-person at the University of Victoria.
“Our artists-in-residence, the Lafayette String Quartet, are based there,” said Arnold, “So for the first week of PRISMA they will coach these six students in preparation for a livestreamed concert on June 20. People can tune in daily to check out their progress.”
The Lafayette members themselves will take the stage the previous night, playing Mozart’s Dissonance Quartet. Then, they will arrive in Powell River to perform spontaneous pop-up concerts in the qathet region, travel restrictions and public health guidelines permitting, and rehearse for a livestreamed performance of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet in C Major on June 26. The piece requires two cellos, which happens to be Arnold’s instrument from his pre-maestro days.
“That’s going to be the highlight of my year,” he adds. “I’m going back to my roots as a cellist, and luckily I’ve gotten a fair bit of practice at the vaccine clinics this year.”
A second ensemble, the Cascadia Trio, comprised of pianist Lorraine Min and past PRISMA guest artists Terence Tam on violin and Brian Yoon on cello, will perform a livestreamed concert on June 27.
Meanwhile, several notable American musicians have been tapped to provide online masterclasses between June 21 and 25, thanks to a grant from the US Department of State. That roster includes renowned violin soloist Anne Akiko Meyers, concertmaster David Halen of the St. Louis Symphony, principal cellist Carter Brey and principal bassist Timothy Cobb of the New York Philharmonic, as well as others from the San Francisco Symphony, LA Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony.
“This is such high quality educational content for our online students, and also for our online audiences,” says Arnold, adding that it’s because of the generosity of PRISMA’s members and sponsors that all of these events are being offered free of charge.
“From playing at the vaccination clinics both in Powell River and in Tla’amin I have been reminded how deep of a need there is for live music and interaction,” he adds. “This online content will make such a difference to those who miss PRISMA and miss live music in general, while for others it might be the chance to discover something new that changes their life for the better.”
PRISMA on the Couch returns
As if two weeks of daily digital content isn’t quite enough, a second season of PRISMA on the Couch is also in the works. Episodes will air Fridays starting July 23, through to the end of August.
“We had so many positive reactions to the 10 shows we produced last year,” says Arnold. “We’ve got more in the archives featuring the full orchestra, and more behind-the-scenes stories to tell. It was just such a great way to promote both PRISMA and the qathet region to a worldwide community, we had to do it again.”
To learn more about PRISMA’s 2021 offerings, visit prismafestival.com/livestream, and stay tuned to the organization’s social media accounts in the coming days for pop-up concert announcements.