What day was your “last normal day?” It was probably in mid-March when you realized that your calendar was now a useless app or wall decoration. Maybe you erased or deleted events because it was so depressing or maybe you kept them up as a reminder of better times. And things will get better, but not soon for any activities where we used to assemble in crowds. Janz Castelo, BPO violist and Artistic Director of the Buffalo Chamber Players says: “Music is a social art and requires a sense of togetherness to flourish.” However, long after manufacturing and finance and real estate and even restaurants open up, arts and entertainment will be part of the last phase, known now as Phase IV, so getting together to “flourish” might be awhile.

Until that time comes, several arts organizations are keeping their performers busy and their fans entertained, if only on-line, including the Buffalo Chamber Players who are most often other Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians “moonlighting.” Here’s the story.

On Thursday evenings, at 7:00 p.m., from his living room, Castelo coordinates the ensemble’s streamed programs (on YouTube and Facebook) which so far have featured a mix of videos from past performances, live solo performances from musicians’ homes, duets “at home” with musician couples, and “virtual” ensembles where each musician records his or her part at home with those recordings then assembled and synched for broadcast on YouTube or Facebook.


Some of these are quite ambitious, for example, the Buffalo Chamber Players performance of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” which was a very impressive blend of stellar BPO talent and clever technology. Castelo (seen in the upper left of the Bach video) admits that “while our streams are not a replacement for the real thing, while we get through this terrible crisis, I’m happy to  connect with the Buffalo community through our music in a meaningful way.”

Once again, this Thursday night 7:00 p.m. more music will be streamed simultaneously on YouTube and Facebook, allowing the audience to chat in the comments area with the performers and each other in a manner not possible in a traditional concert hall, where talking would get you “shushed!” But here, “comments from the peanut gallery” which were commonplace in Shakespeare’s time are back. One of the more chat-worthy moments came when BPO bassist Brett Shurtliffe revealed (on purpose) that below his formal symphonic dress white tie and tails he was wearing pajama bottoms! Another fun moment came when a virtual quartet played “Makin’ Whoopee.”


When life hands you lemons, the BCP makes lemonade, or whoopee, depending.

The Buffalo Chamber Players’ virtual concerts are free and open to the general public, with links to the streams posted on the ensemble’s website and social media on Thursdays just prior to the start of the performances.  While the ensemble currently plans to stream every Thursday at 7:00 p.m., please visit www.buffalochamberplayers.org for updated weekly information and schedules. For the concerts, visit www.facebook.com/buffalochamberplayers or www.youtube/bfloplayers.

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Adds Castelo, “This pandemic has turned our world upside down. Social distancing and stay home measures are necessary to keep our bodies healthy, but have taken a toll on our souls. I hope our virtual concerts bring as much joy to others as they do to our musicians who prepare them.” And on that note, enjoy Susan Schumann, Loren Silvertrust, and Amelie Fradette playing the soulful “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla.

Photo credits: Janz Castelo