A New Season: Strata in DC

A New Season:  Strata in DCStrata (James Stern, violin/viola, Audrey Andrist, piano, and NW, clarinet) at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC

My last public performance before the pandemic shut everything down was in Washington, DC in early March with my trio, Strata. It seemed fitting that my first public performance in this new and virtual concert season also took place in Washington, DC with my trio. Our performance on Wednesday, September 16 at the storied Cosmos Club was live-streamed to an even larger audience than we expected.

My trio has been playing together for thirty years, so we know each other very well both as human beings and musicians. Depending on our chosen repertoire for any given concert program, we always plan carefully to be sure we have more than enough rehearsal time. We had originally planned to begin rehearsing one week prior to the performance but, because of travel restrictions, I flew up from Austin on Wednesday, September 2. (Anyone traveling into Washington, DC from a high-risk state is required to self-quarantine for 14 days, and Texas is considered high-risk because the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases is 10 or more per 100,000 people.)

It was a great luxury to have a full two weeks to rehearse our Cosmos Club program, which included trios by J. S. Bach (a transcription of the G Major Trio Sonata, BWV 1039), William Bolcom, (a suite of rags entitled Afternoon Cakewalk), Darius Milhaud (Suite, op. 157b), Dana Wilson (A Thousand Whirling Dreams), and Carl Reinecke (Trio in A Major, op. 264). It was also wonderful just to have so much time to spend together. We relished the time even more than usual, given the current circumstances of the world, and the fact that we hadn’t seen one another since March.

The Cosmos Club, founded in 1878, is a private club for women and men who are prominent in science, literature, the arts, a learned profession, or public service. We performed on their distinguished concert series several years ago and were happy to be invited to be a part of their 2020-21 season. Their response to the pandemic was swift and impressive, with arrangements to record and livestream our concert having been in the works since May.

The only people who physically attended the concert were socially distanced members of their Arts Committee along with the recording engineers who made the livestream possible. While there’s no substitute for the energy of a live audience, at this point in the pandemic experience it isn’t difficult to visualize people watching from home. Knowing that colleagues, family members, and friends from all over the country were sharing the concert experience allowed us to feel their energy and presence even though we weren’t together physically. Ultimately, we had an unforgettable time making live music together and moving forward despite all the additional considerations and challenges posed by the pandemic. I’m so grateful we could perform again and can’t wait until our next concert together.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” —–Ruth Bader Ginsburg