Meet the all-new orchestra bringing live concerts back to the city


“We thought the worst thing that could happen is that we might suddenly have live concerts, but we’re not ready to host them,” Wang said in an interview with Zoom. “So we planned as if we could put them… We were very optimistic and hopeful.”

Their bet is won. With this weekend’s premiere performance, featuring music from Mozart, Ginastera and Carlos Simon, the young Boston Festival Orchestra is set to be one of the first orchestras to perform for a live audience in the city since the start of the pandemic.

But the group hasn’t been idle in recent months either, as Wang and Brown laid the groundwork for the live launch with numerous digital gigs. We’ve kept the co-founders on Zoom for more.

Q. What was it like to get the ball rolling [after your plans were derailed]?

AW: In December 2020, Nick and I were thinking: how do we get the public to know us? We announced our organization [in 2019] and had had no activity since, due to the pandemic. So we ended up doing an online bedroom series, and it drew over 1,700 viewers. We had people watching all over the country and not just in Boston.

The fact that the first things we did were online was a little odd, but every month we had a new show – like, “Hey, do you remember us? We are always there, we always want to be involved in your community. Then as we got closer to July it started to turn into “Welcome, we want to let you know we’re going to have live concerts in just a few months”.

The Boston Festival Orchestra rehearsed at the Calderwood Pavilion earlier this week.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

NB: We really hope this will develop our roots as an organization ‚and truly establish us as – we hope – the cornerstone of summers in Boston. When we found out that the name [Boston Festival Orchestra] hadn’t been claimed and that we could actually take it, it was a huge first win. It’s such a traditionalist city and rooted in the pride of its hometown, being able to be “Boston whatever” was really important to us.

Q. And with your musicians?

AW: We started employing future musicians from BFO to record as part of our chamber music series and then ended up hiring them for the summer orchestra. A lot of people hadn’t played with anyone or recorded with only a camera and microphone, not for real human beings. So for a lot of people, it was really exciting for us to be like, “We’re going to give you a chance to play live music with your friends, for a live audience, in just a few months.”

NB: From my side, as the person who was involved in the procurement process, we got off to a very slow start. As we mentioned, our first virtual gig was in January, and it was actually just Alyssa doing solo violin. And from there, we just added string players.

AW: Because we’re a new organization and don’t have the infrastructure to hire marketers, decorators and the like, Nick and I do a lot of the work. With chamber broadcasts, we were the technicians. We take care of our own website design, contracts, staff management. Nick is the main clarinetist and he gives a concert the third week. I am the conductor and I play a violin concerto the second week. It was all born of trying to be smart with our resources. We don’t have the funds – if we can’t pay other people to do it, we have to do it ourselves. And it has been really rewarding for me personally, having to learn all the different facets of building an organization from scratch.

Q. How did the audience react to the live performances? Are people buying tickets?

NB: Every day we get closer, we get our daily ticket reports and we see the numbers increase every week.

AW: At Calderwood, we can’t have a full audience. But people still really want that sort of thing. So we really hope to get as many people in as possible, in complete safety.


Concerts on July 17, 24 and 31. Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St.

The interview has been condensed and edited. AZ Madonna can be reached at Follow her on twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

AZ Madonna can be contacted at Follow her on twitter @knitandlisten.


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