The streets of Madison are unusually quiet this time of year, as the normally crowded Madison Early Music Festival has been forced to switch to an online format.
The festival, which focuses on performances and lectures on music written before 1850, was in its final planning stages before news broke that it would not take place as planned due to the coronavirus.
“COVID-19 changed everything,” MEMF administrator Cheryl Bensman-Rowe said. “Everything was ready to go. The concert series had already been announced, the brochure was in print, class registrations were about to open, and tickets for the performances were about to be sold at the Union Box Office.
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MEMF is currently in its twenty one season and enjoyed a large number of fans and performers throughout its long run.
As Bensman-Rowe explains, the appeal of the festival’s performances lies in its smaller, quieter ensembles.
“We planned the first festival as a series of concerts and a workshop for students between the ages of 18 and 90 and we were delighted that the festival became a great success! Said Bensman Rowe. “There is a very loyal fan base… audiences who love chamber music are very fond of the intimacy of smaller and often virtuoso ensembles. “
While performances and lectures can still take place virtually, Bensman-Rowe admits this is not the outcome MEMF organizers hoped for.
Bensman-Rowe said the situation is difficult for both artists and potential attendees.
“A lot of what we do is created by being together in person as a community,” said Bensman-Rowe. “Anyone who has sung in a choir, performed in a band or orchestra, or attended a live concert understands how so rewarding these experiences are. “
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The decision to cancel the festival took a heavy toll on organizers and musicians, as both will now be deprived of much-needed festival income, Bensman-Rowe said.
The cancellation didn’t completely spoil the concert, however, as performances and lectures are still being held at the event site. Facebook page.
Using the site’s authoring feature, pre-recorded performance videos by different artists are shown each evening at 7 p.m., when they would normally take place in person. Conferences will also continue to take place at scheduled times via the live broadcast.
The Madison Early Music Festival will also not have its closing concert this year, which is a collaboration between educators and festival-goers to rehearse a piece of early music to play at the end of the week.
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While this turn of events is a far cry from what MEMF fans have come to expect, Bensman-Rowe said she hopes for a return to normal by the next festival.
“We had a lot of interest [in] MEMF Online, ”Bensman-Rowe said. “But we are looking forward to being MEMF Offline in the future, hopefully in 2021!”