And the beat goes on: Music Department streams concert online

And the beat goes on: Music Department streams concert online

Dr. Owen Lovell practices on his grand piano at home.
Dr. Owen Lovell practices on his grand piano at home.
Q uitting is not a word in Dr. Owen Lovell’s vocabulary, and canceling concerts is taboo. As a concert pianist, he’s played through broken thumbs, broken hands and scorpion stings. He’s missed family funerals and skipped hospital visits to play on stage.

So, it’s no surprise the coronavirus couldn’t stop Lovell’s March solo concert. He streamed it live on Facebook.

As a faculty member whose primary training is in performance, I’ve never had a reputation for canceling concerts, and that’s not about to start now—especially now. My family and friends can attest to how extremely and inflexibly I have taken the old mantra, ‘The show must go on.’
– Dr. Owen Lovell
“As a faculty member whose primary training is in performance, I’ve never had a reputation for canceling concerts, and that’s not about to start now—especially now,” said Lovell, assistant professor of music.

“My family and friends,” he said, “can attest to how extremely and inflexibly I have taken the old mantra, ‘The show must go on.’”

Lovell believes it sets a “bad precedent” for students, if professors don’t keep their musical commitments. Several hundreds of hours go into preparation to produce a memorized concert performance, he said.

With music’s ability to release dopamine—a ‘happiness’ chemical in the brain—it may be more important than ever for cooped-up people to enjoy concerts. “Exhibition,” was streamed live from Facebook in March.

The live streaming project with Dr. Lovell came out our need to provide a sense of normal in a very rapidly changing situation.
– Dr. Don Parker, music chair.

“This sends the positive message to our students, campus and community that we are here to assist and continue providing the needed cultural connection in these uncertain times. The music department will continue to seek opportunities to keep GC united,” Parker said.

Sometimes change can be a good thing, Parker added. Modifications to the program this semester “led to some amazing presentations and performances.”

Because “Exhibition” is a solo concert, it was easier to air online in a world abiding by social distancing. The show aired live from Lovell’s Lake Sinclair home in Baldwin County. He played on a recently tuned 7-foot 6-inch Schimmel K230 semi-concert grand piano and streamed live from his living room with an A/V setup.

“When I really get cranking on it, you can probably hear the piano outside the house— it’s has a lot of power when played forcefully,” Lovell said.

The “energy” from the audience is lacking, and that’s the downside of an online concert. The musician doesn’t hear applause. When the concert was finished, Lovell said he thanked viewers for tuning in and walked away, “grabbed a glass of water and checked my email, as if nothing happened.”

But there are positives, too. More people can tune in to online performances from anywhere in the world. The sick and homebound have equal access. Parents can enjoy the concert, without worrying about young children causing disruption. It’s also possible more people are listening.

I think the largest concert hall audience I’ve ever played for was 1,500. With simulcast radio and internet broadcasts, we can reach 10 to 100 times those numbers.
– Dr. Owen Lovell
“I think the largest concert hall audience I’ve ever played for was 1,500,” Lovell said. “With simulcast radio and internet broadcasts, we can reach 10 to 100 times those numbers.”

Life for everyone has changed since COVID-19. Lovell had to cancel a summer festival in northern Italy this summer, where he’d been invited to teach. Interacting with students long distance is also an adjustment. Piano teaching is based on three hundred years of tradition and one-on-one lessons.

To overcome this, Lovell has repurposed his piano studio classes to be web conferences, where students can share coping stories, motivate each other and perform piano pieces online.

“I desperately miss teaching my students on campus, and I’m saddened to not be able to share the raw power and virtuosity that the “Exhibition” program displays, in person,” Lovell said.

“But it’s important for us to adapt at this critical moment,” he said, “to share the arts, education, and entertainment with our local community and beyond.”