The chamber orchestra, a pioneer in streaming performances, has gone online with Anthony DiLorenzo’s ‘Anthem of Hope.’
April 3, 2020 Updated: April 4, 2020, 9:04 am
With orchestra musicians scattered all over the country, ROCO knows how to operate remotely. But last week the 39-member ensemble attempted a particularly complicated task: to perform “Anthem of Hope,” Anthony DiLorenzo’s four-minute composition from 39 different locations.
“This is how we’ve always done it,” says ROCO founder, artistic director and principal oboeist Alecia Lawyer. “We have musicians from all over, but we still feel connected.”
Lawyer and Brooks Cruzen of the Houston-based Blueprint Film Co. spent time last Monday sketching out an idea: Each ROCO member would record video of them performing their parts of the piece of music. They sent the pieces to Cruzen, who spent about 40 or 50 hours assembling all the material into a quite moving piece of sound and vision.
“We had the piece already, it’s become a calling card of ours,” Lawyer says.
ROCO commissioned the piece by DiLorenzo as a response to the city’s recovery after Hurricane Harvey. They’ve since made the sheet music for it available, too.
“I want it to be free to the world,” Lawyer says. “I would love for it to become something global, like the Coke commercial.”
The presentation of “Anthem of Hope” certainly reminds of the old soft-drink ad: Cruzen makes space for each ROCO performer as they play their part of the piece. As the song evolves, performers fade in and out . Visually it’s mesmerizing, and sonically it’s remarkable given the musicians weren’t together. Conceptually it’s a hopeful piece of art at a time when the coronavirus has shut down art and entertainment and left people homebound. The video can be seen on YouTube and ROCO.org and there’s also a time-lapse video of the production that can be seen on YouTube as well.
“Even though they’re not in the same room, it still has this power,” Cruzen says. “And it speaks to their talents. They’re such incredible musicians. The first time I put the 39 tracks together and hit play, I was amazed at how impressive the performance was, even with them separated like that. It’s testament to how talented and dedicated they are.”
Lawyer and Cruzen hatched the plan on March 23. Twenty-four hours later, all 39 musicians had sent their videos. Three days after that the video was complete.
“It was a little tedious to align 39 tracks properly,” Cruzen says. “But they’re were also no retakes. Each of these was the first video they sent. Which is pretty incredible.”
ROCO — formerly the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra — has been on the front end of using technology to further its music, both for rehearsals and in delivering music to potential listeners. The group celebrated its 15th anniversary last year, and has been streaming concerts for three years.
So the process of trying to reach listeners during a period of social distancing came easily. “Without realizing it,” Lawyer says, “ROCO has been positioned for this for years. We were prepared to flatten the curve.”
A fan of old-school science fiction, Lawyer is eager to see what other ways ROCO can push ahead, “like ‘Star Trek’ with a holodeck,” she says laughing.
For the time being, though, she’s engaged in getting DiLorenzo’s music out there in hopes that it can — once again — offer some comfort during a fraught and tumultuous time.