Free virtual reality chamber music concert in Strasenburgh Planetarium streams this weekend


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This weekend, music lovers will be able to experience an “out of this world” experience. The Society for Chamber Music in Rochester has partnered with the Strasenburgh Planetarium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center for a unique streaming experience.

This weekend — that’s March 19 through March 22 — a special concert featuring a string quartet is streaming in the Planetarium itself, all in virtual reality.

The Planetarium is the third prominent Rochester institution they’ve partnered with, preceded by the Memorial Art Gallery, and the George Eastman Museum.

The co-director of the Society, Erik Behr (who is also the principal oboist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra), says that this concert was crafted as musicians are adapting to the new world of livestreaming.

“It’s been really interesting going down the unique programming rabbit hole,” said Behr. He said that this new era of streaming and chamber music has allowed musicians and organizers to program incredible music that doesn’t always fit in a normal orchestral setting.

The concert itself features works by Palestrina, a Renaissance composer, to the modern composer Avro Pärt, and they’re even featuring a piece by Black composer Adolfus Hailstork, who was born in Rochester. To add to the experience, The Salaff String Quartet (also featuring musicians of the RPO), worked with Planetarium director Steve Fentress to come up with the perfect series of astronomical backdrops.

“We have an infinite number of scenes we can put on the dome, we have a fantastically flexible lighting system,” said Steve Fentress, the director of the planetarium. “The musicians sent ahead a playlist… We’re working on which scenes will go with which pieces of music.”

Behr’s goal for this concert is to give people a relaxing distraction. Recording this concert in virtual reality, will allow people to look around virtually at the show, and allow their attention to move around, just like a real show.

They’re even having a yoga instructor lead off the stream with breathing exercises and a guided meditation to get people in the right mindset.

“This is about taking the time to breath and relax a little bit,” Behr said. “

But the other star of the show is a high-tech virtual reality camera array called the “Insta360 Titan VR.” True to its word, the array captures video in 360 degrees. Behr says that the camera is on loan, but the secret to its success it putting it in the capable hands of Michael Sherman, a local videographer and recording engineer, who is one of the area’s first call classical capture artists.

“It looks like a droid from Star Wars,” Behr joked. “You have the stars above you while you’re listening to chamber music.

“We want people to be watching at home, relaxed with their favorite beverage,” he said. “A relaxed environment, at home, listening to classical music, and not feeling like there’s any kind of stiffness or formality to it.”

If you’re interested in watching, you can find it here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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