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The story behind the series

The show must go on

About SOUND/STAGE

SOUND/STAGE is an online concert film series produced by LA Phil Media, the media and digital initiatives arm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. The series brings the LA Phil’s musical programs to the screen through collaborations with music video, documentary, and feature film directors. Each episode is organized around a single artist, ensemble, or theme that is explored through music as well as supporting essays, artwork, playlists, and interviews. Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the series is filmed at the Hollywood Bowl, where musicians are able to perform together outside while socially distanced.

In more routine times, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, led by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, presents an array of live performances at three of L.A.’s iconic venues: Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, and The Ford. Though live concerts are not possible at this time, the LA Phil continues to bring its performances and education programs to audiences through programs like SOUND/STAGE.

In the image gallery below, you can see the behind-the-scenes preparations required to welcome the orchestra back to the Hollywood Bowl stage and make SOUND/STAGE a reality. 

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  • Following scientific studies and industry best practices, all unmasked players were separated by at least 12 feet, were surrounded by plexiglass barriers to limit particle spread, and followed new guidelines for cleaning and clearing spit valves.

  • Producing SOUND/STAGE involved re-thinking how the orchestra performs to keep everyone safe. All performers and support staff were tested for COVID-19 in the days before filming with drive-thru tests given in the Hollywood Bowl parking lot.

  • Boxes and hard lines on this plot for performers of Kamasi Washington’s BECOMING represent plexiglass barriers that are built to separate wind players who can’t wear masks while performing.

  • New stage setups were designed to stay within County health guidelines for social distancing. All performers and support staff were given COVID-19 testing.

  • The original plan was to use standard plexiglass drum shields for wind players, but COVID-19 has caused many plexiglass products to be on backorder. Due to that scarcity, these barriers were custom built for SOUND/STAGE.

  • For Dawn by Thomas Adès, the required orchestra was too large to fit on stage. The composer fully supported the idea of honoring the social distance we are living with in this new piece’s American premiere, and the brass section was placed in the front row of box seats.

  • To allow for the facial cues that are inherit to Gustavo Dudamel’s conducting style, he was placed further away from the front musicians closest to him to so he could remove his mask.

  • Performers were filmed by a total of six cameras that combined Steadicam operators among the musicians, a 50-foot crane, two newly made 10-foot towers in the audience, and one camera mounted on an aerial drone.

The Sound/stage lineup

About the episodes

EPISODE 1: SEPT 25 Love in the Time of COVID

With the help of J’Nai Bridges, Gustavo and the orchestra explore the many expressions of love – from the familial in George Walker’s elegy for his grandmother, to a musical love letter from Gustav Mahler, to Peter Lieberson’s setting of romantic poetry from Pablo Neruda. 

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor María Valverde, narrator J'Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano

LIEBERSON  Neruda Songs: “Amor mío, si muero y tú no mueras” WALKER  Lyric for Strings MAHLER  Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 

Support for this episode is provided by Diane and David Paul.

EPISODE 2: OCT 2 Salón Los Ángeles

Featuring two composers who adapted popular dance music for the symphonic concert hall, this episode offers pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Rhapsody in Blue and Arturo Márquez and Gustavo Dudamel paying tribute to the history of Salón Los Ángeles, the oldest dance hall in Mexico City.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

Arturo MÁRQUEZ  Danzon No. 1 GERSHWIN  Rhapsody in Blue

EPISODE 3: OCT 9 Power to the People!

A continuation of the LA Phil’s Power to the People! festival that was cut short by COVID-19, this episode pays tribute to Black voices and excellence, ranging from William Grant Still’s expression of pride to Jessie Montgomery’s reimagining of the national anthem for a 21st century America to vocalist Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” which has become an unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor Andra Day, vocalist

Jessie MONTGOMERY  Banner STILL  “Sorrow” from Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” “Rise Up” performed by Andra Day

EPISODE 4: OCT 16 Andra Day

Soul, jazz, and R&B singer Andra Day has been compared to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone – both among her musical heroes – for her ability to weave a narrative with masterful musicality and raw emotion. This set includes Day’s debut hit “Gold” and a rendition of Simone’s powerful protest anthem “Mississippi Goddam.”

EPISODE 5: OCT 23 Beethoven

Richard Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony the “apotheosis of dance.” Gustavo Dudamel describes Beethoven as pure beauty and joy. Watch as the orchestra channels that spirit as it comes back together for one of the first times since the onset of the COVID crisis to perform this timeless and exuberant masterpiece.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

BEETHOVEN  Symphony No. 7

Support for this episode is provided by Ann Ronus. 

EPISODE 6: OCT 30 Original Score to BECOMING  An intimate portrait of Michelle Obama by Kamasi Washington

One of the most inventive and respected voices in modern jazz, Los Angeles’ own Kamasi Washington comes to SOUND/STAGE to perform his original score to BECOMING: An intimate portrait of Michelle Obama – a new documentary based on the former First Lady’s bestselling memoir.

Support for this episode is provided by Lisa Field. 

EPISODE 7: NOV 6 Solitude

While the physical toll of the global pandemic is measured in a mountain of data, the emotional impact of our separation from family, friends, and neighbors is not as obvious. In this episode, Dudamel explores the essence of solitude, from one of Duke Ellington’s classic songs to the U.S. premiere of a work by Thomas Adès – composed specifically for a socially distanced orchestra.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Thomas ADÈS  Dawn (U.S. Premiere) ELLINGTON  Solitude

EPISODE 8: NOV 13 Chicano Batman

Since 2008, Chicano Batman has blended the many sounds of L.A. into a genre-bending mix that offers both societal critiques and an unabashed dance party. The band’s SOUND/STAGE set features songs from their latest album, Invisible People, which has been called “their funkiest political statement yet.”

EPISODE 9: NOV 20 Finales

Claude Debussy once wrote, “There is nothing more musical than a sunset.” Endings are crucial in music, but they are often one of the hardest elements for a composer to do well. The closing SOUND/STAGE episode offers three masterful finishes from Beethoven, Ravel, and Gabriela Ortiz and a conversation between Dudamel and Alejandro G. Iñárritu on the nature of finales.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, conductor Alejandro G. Iñárritu, special guest

RAVEL  Mother Goose: “The Fairy Garden” BEETHOVEN  Finale from Symphony No. 7 Gabriela ORTIZ  Corpórea: “Ritual Mind – Corporeous Pulse”

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