The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is pushing the season on-line with free Entrance Row live performance collection

Like almost all performing arts organizations, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) was hit by the pandemic that ended all public gatherings within the sacred walls of Heinz Hall.

However, with the help of Pittsburgh’s Flying Scooter Productions, they were able to save their 125th season. The result is a six-part web series, “Front Row,” with episodes ranging from 45 minutes to an hour. All episodes show the shimmering, transcendent music of the world-famous PSO and an idiosyncratic travelogue through Pittsburgh: its landmarks, history, innovators, secrets and unexpected joys.

“At the moment we feel like someone who wants to give a gift, wants to hand over flowers, but that person (the recipient) is not here,” says PSO music director Manfred Honeck in the first episode of “Front Row. ”

The music in the series ranges from the Italian cinema genius from Ennio Morricone to Beethoven (who is celebrating his 250th birthday) to a jazz change with pianist Bobby Floyd and a premiere by Jessie Montgomery, a celebrated young black composer from Philadelphia .

“We wanted to offer their customers and new viewers something to explore,” says Jennifer Schlieper, co-owner of Flying Scooter and director of the web series. “Music is the base, but the real magic comes from voices all over town.”

Settings may appear anywhere on the map but have been carefully chosen. They range from Heinz Hall to the bucolic beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the legendary Andy Warhol Museum, to the roughly hewn, tactile studio of the internationally renowned sculptor Thaddeus Mosley.

There’s also an informal talk about race and music at the Z-Best Barbecue in the Hill District and a musical tribute to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.

It’s a whirlwind tour, but the music puts it all together.

PSO members at the Andy Warhol Museum. Photo courtesy Flying Scooter Productions.

Schlieper says they wanted it to be a gift to the city. “There are many orchestras that talk a lot about themselves. We were like, no, Pittsburgh isn’t like that. We just really wanted to give something back and showcase some of the people in town, ”she says.

It was extremely difficult to safely handle this during Covid. With a capacity of 25 people indoors – including a maximum of 18 musicians on stage and each manned camera – it was a challenge to simply shoot footage. The actors were masked. Surfaces were constantly disinfected. Brass and horn players were not allowed to perform inside.

PSO crew. Photo courtesy Flying Scooter Productions.

But they did it. Each episode has a theme such as “Originators and Disruptors,” which includes pieces about Fred Rogers, environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, and choreographer Martha Graham (all from Pittsburgh). Of course, there’s a vacation episode with Oscar-winning singer Vanessa Campagna. Another episode shows the trumpet virtuoso and PSOs Principal Pops Conductor Byron Stripling.

It’s easy to completely immerse yourself in the music. “You are like being on the person’s lap,” says Schlieper.

“Front Row,” which premiered in October, has been viewed by thousands in 16 different countries so far. Flying Scooter has asked questions from other symphonies how to do something similar. The series can be found on the PSO website or streamed for free on Comcast six months after each release. Keeping it free was an important consideration.

PSO members at Fallingwater. Photo courtesy Flying Scooter Productions.

“They (the PSO) could get funding from foundations and the state to do this,” says Schlieper. There were patrons who made additional donations to the project, “but they never asked anyone for a dime to look at it because they really wanted to make sure it was seen by everyone.”

The PSO is holding a celebration of Digital’s 125th anniversary at 7:30 p.m. on February 27 for a donation of $ 25.

Flying Scooter ProductionsManfred HoneckPittsburgh Symphony OrchestraPSO

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