The past year has been unlike any America has ever experienced before, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s most tragic early casualty was our hometown. Yesterday, March 14, New York City held a Day of Remembrance to mark the one-year anniversary of the city’s first death from the virus. The city’s somber commemoration of thousands of lives lost and resolute hope for the end of the pandemic was presided over by Mayor Bill de Blasio and held at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Ten Philharmonic brass players, conducted by Daniela Candillari, opened the event with a performance of Dectet by native New Yorker Michael Kamen.
As the Philharmonic participated in this event, our sense of honor was overwhelmed by our own memories. The full orchestra’s last concert in front of a live audience in the concert hall, was on March 10, 2020, with the sheer beauty of Debussy for a house that, although sold out, was ominously only half full. Two days later, we had to cancel concerts for what we thought would be two weeks, only to have that period extended through the season, then the summer, then throughout our entire 2020–21 season. We mourned the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. Determined to serve our audience and community, we created new ways to share our performances online — now, through NYPhil+, our new performance streaming service — and we launched NY Phil Bandwagon to present live performances across the city in a way that governmental and healthcare authorities deemed safe.
While we remember so many New Yorkers lost, we also see the prospect of the time when families, including the Philharmonic family, can again gather. We anticipate the moment when the hall lights go down, the stage lights rise, and the conductor strides to the podium and raises his baton. We all look forward to the moment when music will again ring out and we can finally experience the magic created when performers and audiences join in the shared experience of live performance.
(Photo: Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office, City of New York)