As three Weber State professors performed to an empty hall and a virtual audience; the 14th annual Bonneville Chamber Music Festival became WSU’s first virtual-only concert.
Viktor Uzur, WSU cello professor and founder of the Bonneville Chamber Music Festival, had been planning the festival since September 2019. It was going to be as it typically was, featuring seven guest musicians from around the United States and the world. The festival entails several events including master classes and trips for students to Salt Lake City and other universities.
When COVID-19 hit, Uzur had to start rethinking plans and preparing for changes. In mid-July, he decided that it would not be safe for the guest musicians to come to Utah for the festival.
Two of his WSU colleagues were available and willing to help on short notice: Shijun Wang, piano professor, and Carey Campbell, musicology professor. With them, as well as with help of the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities, sponsors and Browning Center personnel, it was possible to continue the festival on Sept. 12 through a live virtual performance on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
“It was a very specific experience, but I think we all came together very well,” Uzur said.
Uzur first performed “Suite for solo cello No. 6” by Bach. A challenging piece for cellists, Uzur began practicing this piece during the summer while he was at home in quarantine instead of traveling abroad as he normally does.
He said he chose to perform it for the festival because he thought it would be a nice reflection of not only what he’s done, but what many musicians have gone through during quarantine and having to turn to soloist pieces.
The festival also celebrated Beethoven’s 250th birthday. In his honor, Wang joined Uzur for a piano and cello duet performance of Beethoven’s “Seven Variations on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’, from Mozart’s Opera ‘Magic Flute.’”
Campbell spoke between pieces to introduce the themes and the next song, delivering enticing descriptions and a little bit of the history surrounding the pieces. To honor Beethoven he touched on the musician’s legacy, from his traditional pieces to some of his “most complex and visionary works,” produced even after he became deaf, that defied tradition and convention.
On top of his happiness that everything in preparing and delivering the performance went well, Uzur said his favorite part of the festival was the opportunity that he had to just be a performing musician and focus on the music. He said that live performances are precious in their special charm and flow, that is different from pre-recorded performances, and in the different emotions and expressions they can induce.
Despite these challenging times, WSU’s department of performing arts continues on.
“Art continues and music continues,” Uzur said.
The performance is still available to watch on YouTube, titled “Bach in Solitude, Beethoven @250 – 14th Bonneville Chamber Music Festival.”
Preparations for the 15th annual Bonneville Chamber Festival in 2021 have already begun, and Uzur is excited for what he hopes will be a very special celebration held in the traditional, in-person way.