Chamber Ensemble Les Délices Explores New Approaches for its 20-21 Season

Thu 10/22-Sun 11/2

When Cleveland chamber ensemble Les Delices kicks off its regular season on Thursday October 22, the music will sound the same but everything else will be different. The program, titled Bewitched, will include a pair of cantatas performed soprano Hannah De Priest: Medée by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault and Colin de Blamont’s Circé. But you’ll be listening at home to an “immersive digital experience,” with professional-level video, audio and lighting, enhancing a program that includes onscreen subtitles and artist interviews. The video will be available on demand to ticketholders from October 22-November 2.

This is no on-the-spot streaming performance, with cameras capturing a regular concert-hall presentation. That’s due in large part to the fact that while many other area classical music presenters were optimistically announcing live fall seasons back in May, Les Delices founder/director Debra Nagy was already reading the tea leaves and starting to plan for a digital season.

“I feel like we made some decisions about how we were going to do it earlier than some,” says Nagy. “We made a big pivot in early May, just having to rethink not just what we do, but almost every aspect of how we do it. I really wanted to think about what the concert format would look like, not just record a traditional concert and upload it to YouTube. The result was we made a decision to do video as opposed to streaming live, which is difficult to do, especially for a small group like ours. ”

She began to assemble to team to handle the technology. They include the local production team of Erica Brenner and her partner Elaine Maitone and local lighting designer Jeannette Mwaki, along with a director of photography and an audio engineer, a team she says, made a huge difference in production values. Taping the concerts at one of their usual venues, Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, was an asset too.

“It’s a really beautiful open space that gives us a lot of visual room. There’s a lot of camera flexibility.”

Starting the planning so early meant that Les Delices has much of its season in the can, with four of six concerts already recorded.

“Everything was so front-loaded to plan and create and record the music,” says Nagy. “So it’s a completely different schedule. Also, you make this incredible investment, not only in technology and producing the work, what you’d normally be doing over the course of eight months.”

That gave Nagy and her team plenty of team to think about how to present the music, “how to put to in context, present something that was both entertaining and enriching.

“I really wanted to think about how to use the video format to replace some of the things you experience coming to a live concert in ways that felt organic and engaging, that period when you enter the hall as an audience member or artist, that period of time before the performance and at the closing of it,” she says. “There are all these ways I think you can create this guided experience. We try to use credits in an interesting way. You get a little bit a sense of the process and a sense of informality and rapport with the performers. I had a lot of fun thinking about how to adapt each element of the concert experience.”

In addition to planning the regular concert season, Les Delices added something new: its Monday night, twice-monthly series SalonEra, featuring a wide range of artists presenting a themed program such as “Latin Baroque.”

That’s one of the places she sees opportunity in the midst of a challenging pandemic landscape.

“With SalonEra we had our eye on how to get a more national audience with the hopes that would filter over to concert series,” says Nagy. “It’s exciting to see subscriptions come from North Carolina and Boston and places like that. I think that’s a really interesting opportunity and also it’s kind of an imperative.”

She’s already thinking about what how presenting concerts might look, post-pandemic.

“I’m starting to wonder if there’s always going to be some component of this offered as an alternative,” she says. “We’ve had a really positive response to SalonEra. I’m starting to get a sense that there’s a place for that in the post-pandemic word. I’ll be very interested to see how that develops.”

To find out more about Les Delices’ 20-21 season and SalonEra, go here.

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