There aren’t any seats for the time being in David Geffen Hall, the New York Philharmonic’s house at Lincoln Center. There isn’t any foyer, no stage, no stairs. The theater — presently within the midst of a long-delayed renovation — is a uncooked shell of concrete and metal; the one music inside it, the shouts of employees and the deafening screech of steel being sawed.
If some a part of us believes that life over the previous 14 months has been ready to be resumed kind of intact — on ice, simply needing a thaw — the gutted Geffen speaks to the opposite half, the sense that issues have essentially modified, or ought to.
Late Friday afternoon, the Philharmonic was in an empty lot at Domino Park, on the Brooklyn waterfront simply north of the Williamsburg Bridge, making a tough, modest sketch of a few of these adjustments. As development continues at its corridor, the orchestra has produced a sequel to its mobile Bandwagon program, an avatar of a extra nimble, responsive, community-connected group.
Bandwagon 1 was a rented Ford F-250 pickup truck, wrapped in pink, white and black Philharmonic branding, that drove around the city over eight weekends late final summer season and early fall for brief, impromptu chamber performances. (“Pull-up” relatively than pop-up concert events.)
Bandwagon 2 is a step ahead in sophistication. It’s a 20-foot transport container with a foldout stage, an impressively sharp video wall and built-in, very good sound and lighting. After its first few days at Domino, it’s going to journey over the remaining weekends of May for three-day stints in parks in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens.
The key aspect is giving over a lot of the time on this cell stage to neighborhood organizations and artists. Crucially, Bandwagon 2 just isn’t draped in Philharmonic branding; to have a look at the construction, actually, you wouldn’t know this was a Philharmonic challenge in any respect.
This displays a brand new sense of how our massive legacy classical arts establishments ought to work together with their cities. Those interactions usually are not new for opera firms and orchestras, however they’ve usually had a permeating sense of noblesse oblige: The large symphony deigns to play at an acoustically subpar neighborhood highschool or neighborhood middle, and expects neighborhood organizations to herald a neighborhood (learn: numerous) viewers. (This comes full with a moralizing whiff of the “elevating power of classical music” and such.)
The actual intention has been good press for the orchestra and a little bit of old school, even patronizing charity work. Beyond smiles, thank yous and invites to attend “real” concert events again on the “real” corridor, the neighborhood companions — if you happen to can name them that — don’t get a lot.
In current years — and in heightened style over the previous 12 months — norms and expectations about such partnerships have shifted. Orchestras, taking inventory of their privilege as rich, largely white entities, have begun to rethink the outdated mannequin, the relentless give attention to themselves even in actions which can be ostensibly outreach.
The key phrases when Bandwagon 2 was introduced final month had been the need to “center the voices of our partners” and “utilize the Philharmonic’s resources to amplify the work of our collaborators.” In much less fancy phrases, the orchestra is stepping again, giving over its stage and its cash relatively than hogging them.
Opening afternoon on Friday gave a touch of how this goes in apply. The Philharmonic’s companion this weekend was El Puente, a South Williamsburg group that focuses on the humanities in addition to training, environmental advocacy and social justice.
While Bandwagon’s producer and jack-of-all-trades, the countertenor and impresario Anthony Roth Costanzo, made fast introductions, the M.C. was Esteban Duran, whose connection is to the neighborhood relatively than to the orchestra.
The opening phase highlighted two artists related to El Puente — the singer and songwriter Juana Luna and the dancer Elisa Toro Franky — with help from a guitarist and a quartet of Philharmonic string musicians in candy, light preparations of Luna’s songs. (The Bandwagon’s unobtrusive amplification system, by Meyer Sound, was crisp with out harshness; even smooth pizzicato plucks registered.) Then got here a refined set from the group Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino. The sense was of the Philharmonic because the host of a competition, relatively than its star.
At the top was the hourlong chamber opera “Birds in the Moon,” with a rating by Mark Grey and libretto by Júlia Canosa i Serra; Bandwagon’s transport container setup was truly conceived a couple of years in the past to current and tour this piece.
The soprano Maria Elena Altany sang with sinuous flexibility. Perhaps the opera, a parable of fraught human migrations, would have been simpler to comply with and might need appeared much less lengthy and slight in higher climate; circumstances by sundown had been chilly, windy and grey on the waterfront. So it appeared like a victory on Friday to draw even a couple of dozen passers-by, together with a powerful contingent of youngsters and canines.
Bandwagon is an experiment for the Philharmonic, a draft of ideas and values, and we’ll see how they grow to be included into its ongoing institutional life. “Centering” and “amplifying” can not simply be well mannered phrases to paper over the persistent lack of range within the orchestra, its personnel and its programming. And there stays the query of what the lasting dedication can be to its neighborhood collaborators — what assets will proceed to amplify their work — as soon as press protection has been achieved, regular operations resume and the music returns to Geffen Hall.
There is hopefully a approach of connecting the Philharmonic and New York in a approach that’s wealthy and sustainable for the entire cultural ecosystem, wherein the orchestra evolves to stay the host of a citywide, yearlong musical competition — a celebration that doesn’t have to finish.