From live-streamed concerts to quirky challenges to taking requests to cooking tips, string players are making the most of these isolated times

By Cristina Schreil

String musicians far and wide are finding creative ways to bring music to their fans, despite the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Perhaps you’ve seen a few pepper your social channels lately. On social media, players are bringing slices of their worlds to viewers. There’s clips from concerts or music videos. Many captions offer encouraging words to fans to stay grounded, safe, and hopeful. Classical musicians may be self-isolating, but things feel far from isolated.

Some musicians have launched even bigger efforts to engage with fans. Many are creating regular content specifically to keep spirits high through COVID-19 uncertainty, using hashtags like #KeepTheMusicGoing and #SongsOfComfort.

Enjoy some of our favorite string-player content below.

1. Virtual Concerts

With live concerts cancelled, it makes sense that many players are taking their performances to the digital realm. One huge effort is the #StayAtHomeFestival, an online festival where groups or solo musicians can stream direct to peoples’ homes. Spearheading the project are Galen Fraser, Diego San Miguel, and María San Miguel, who launched March 15 while in quarantine in Valladolid, Spain.

String players from around the world are participating, including Alasdair Fraser, Rushad Eggleston, Hanneke Cassel, and Mike Block. The festival aimed to raise $20,000 for artists who are out of work since the COVID-19 pandemic. It raised $30,000 and continues with weekend workshops from festival artists this weekend. For more information visit stayathomefestival.com.

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We are overwhelmed by the hundreds of viewers who have written asking us to keep lifting spirits and creating opportunities for us all to connect. We are inspired by all of you, and delighted to announce our next event: 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐲 𝐀𝐭 𝐇𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐅𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐖𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐬! Our goal with these #WeekendWorkshops is to give artists a way to advertise teaching classes online, broaden their fan base, and give musicians and non-musicians of the world the chance to talk with and learn from the life experience of their favorite musicians. Stay tuned to hear more about the fun and creative workshops our fabulous musicians have in store for you! #stayathomefestival

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You can also tune in to live music with Nadia Sirota in “Living Music with Nadia Sirota.” The violist and podcast host launched “Living Music: Pirate Radio Edition,” on Thursday, March 19 on Facebook Live with a show featuring Timo Andres, Nathalie Joachim, and Gabriel Cabezas. “We’ll also be raising money for musicians out of work during this crazy coronation. Come one come all!” Sirota wrote. Episode two features Missy Mazzoli, LISEL, and James McVinnie. Episodes are out Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific. Find more information on Living Music’s website.

Violinist Gaelynn Lea has been live streaming concerts on her YouTube page. On Sunday, March 29, she will be live streaming a candlelit meditation session with improvised live-looped violin. Get more info here.

The Manhattan Chamber Players, a chamber-music collective comprising two dozen New York City musicians, is delivering daily content. “EVERY DAY during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we will post a live MCP performance clip with the hashtag #ThereWillAlwaysBeMusic.” Check out the ensemble’s Facebook page for weekly “CO-VIDeo Online Concerts” streamed live every Saturday at 3 pm EST. Most performances will be solo, but some chamber performances are possible. “Each will include information given by each MCP Artist about the works performed, as well as a description of their experience living in this new, ever-changing creative environment,” the MCP website reads. Get more info here.

Making the most of modern technology, violinist Marc Bouchkov, violist Timothy Ridout, cellist Kian Soltani, and cellist Pablo Ferrandez all performed virtually from their respective spaces on Instagram, with the hashtag #HomeMusicOnline. “Guess the piece?” Bouchkov prompts. Watch it here.

2. Taking Listener Requests

Conjuring the feeling they’re busking on people’s phone screens, violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster launched the #UriPosteJukeBox on Instagram. “Now accepting requests (and quarters) for pieces, songs, and arrangements-to-be to learn and share during this sabbatical that no one asked for—an attempt to keep our minds sharp, fingers busy, and community smiling!” the two wrote on Urioste’s Instagram page March 17. Performances already include a birthday tribute to Nat King Cole, Amy Beach’s Romance, Op. 23, and a playful medley of “Come on Eileen,” Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” and “Baby Shark.” A dash of humor enlivens an already spirited idea.

Kronos Quartet is asking fans to help them create a playlist of relaxing music. “Tell us what songs bring you peace of mind,” they wrote March 18. The link in their Instagram bio already has a compiled suggestions from their Twitter and Facebook followers, along with their own submissions.

3. Sharing Music that Heals the Spirit

Tapping into music’s power to uplift and comfort during uncertain times, many musicians are taking to Instagram to share and perform works to soothe their followers.


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Using the hashtag #SongsOfComfort, Yo-Yo Ma is performing music he finds heartening. “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort,” he wrote on his first post March 13. He’s also performed the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 “for the healthcare workers on the frontlines . . . your ability to balance human connection and scientific truth in service of us all gives me hope,” Ma wrote.

Violinist Ray Chen is also on a mission to spread positive vibes. On March 13 he posted a video of “Positive Bach Energy,” along with a caption asserting how “the power of music is more important than ever.” He added his recommendations for music that lifts spirits, from Grieg’s “Wedding Day in Troldhaugen” to Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major. Follow Chen for more content to come — he’s hinted at an upcoming live stream.

Violinist Rhett Price, who infuses his arrangements with high-energy hip-hop and pop flavors, is posting new violin videos every evening on his Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok accounts. So far, performances include Alicia Keys’ “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” and Justin Bieber’s “Yummy.” Expect daily content to keep coming, “while we’re stuck inside!” he said.

Some music players are sharing follows more of a meditative vibe. For violinist Tracy Silverman, his latest album Meditations of his own compositions befits this time well. “Trying to slow down a little right now,” Silverman wrote in the caption of an Instagram post, a video featuring his music over tranquil, transporting images of breaking waves and cloud-streaked skies.

4. Sharing Humor

Some string musicians are taking a hotly contested COVID-19 topic—toilet-paper panic buying—and turning it on its head to bring joy. In one viral video, violinists Bonnie Von Duyke and Emer Kinsella serenade a barren toilet paper aisle in a Los Angeles supermarket. Titanic fans will immediately recognize the tune: Wearing lifejackets, they performed the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee”—the same one played by the ship’s musicians as the Titanic sunk.

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Sooo… how’s your social distancing going? 🙃🧻 ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ No toilet paper was harmed (or wasted) during the filming of this production. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The ORIGINAL toilet paper challenge video 🤷🏻‍♀️ Join in and tag the ⁣#toiletpapercellochallenge ⁣!! ⁣⁣ ⁣ Adding to the #cellomindchallenge by @cellomindbook, however I’m not 100% sure this is what they were looking for… ⁣🙃 ⁣⁣ #cello #cellist #violincello #violoncello #violin #practicediaries #cellogram #cellistsofinstagram #cellomusic #cellopractice #theswan #lecygne #cellomindchallenge #bsom #saintsaens #theopenmicapp #toiletpaperchallenge #classicalmusic #playhomieplay #cellistoftheworld ⁣#toiletpaper #toiletpapercrisis #socialdistancing ⁣#toiletpapercellochallenge

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In more toilet-paper-themed content, cellist Rylie Harrod-Corral kickstarted the #ToiletPaperCelloChallenge by using this staple . . . unconventionally. Performing a tender interpretation of Saint-Saëns’ The Swan—but, using a roll of toilet paper in place of left-hand fingering—Harrod-Corral amassed more than 45,000 views. She invites other cellists to join in.

5. Rehearsal and Performance Videos

With concerts now cancelled, several ensembles are offering glimpses of their programs to fans through video series specifically to aid listeners through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Coronavirus can cancel our concerts, but it can’t stop us from sharing some Beethoven,” wrote the Telegraph Quartet in an Instagram post March 17. With the words “Now just sit back and relax” stamped onto the video, the San Francisco–based quartet performs a clip from their most recent rehearsal of the 4th movement of Op. 131.

The Neave Trio offered impromptu Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour” from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the hashtag #SongsOfComfort in lieu of their cancelled concerts.

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Quarantine quality time 🤍 @yamensa3di

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Violist Sara Ferrández and violinist Yamen Saadi shared a clip of their playing an arrangement of Bach’s Invention No. 13 from Berlin, captioned “Quarantine quality time.”

6. Practice tips

What better way to spend time in quarantine than with your beloved instrument? Some musicians are acknowledging the practice potential of this time with tutorials.

Cellist Pablo Ferrández offered a tutorial on improving sound quality and color. “Since we are all in quarantine, I thought I chip in and help you guys out with some tips and motivation to make these difficult times a bit easier,” Ferrandez wrote. He’s also invited cellist Kian Soltani to join in on his YouTube series “TALKING CELLO,” offering tips about stage fright, playing from memory and tips on fingering, found here

Cellist Aristides Rivas is posting tutorials on his YouTube page, including one on perfecting cello bow hold technique.  

7. Wellness Tips

Intermission Sessions, a brand promoting music, movement, and mindfulness established by violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, has wellness tips and offerings on their social channels. Check for announcements of virtual yoga and meditation classes, such as this one here, in partnership with National Orchestral Institute Festival, on the NOI’s Facebook account on Facebook Live.

Intermission Sessions also posted a video titled “Self Love in the time of Corona” and a meditation lesson for those new to the practice.

The Verona Quartet offered glimpses into how its players are staying healthy during quarantine. Jon is cooking, disinfecting, working out, and practicing. Violist Abigail Rojansky also posted a video of Dvorak’s American Quartet for her 20-second handwashing tune.

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Since it looks like we’re going to be in this situation longer than we might’ve originally thought, I’m setting up an actual weekly yoga schedule so y’all can save this and know when to tune in. All of these classes will be live and public on Facebook, and donations will be gratefully accepted via Venmo (@bridgidbibbens), but are completely optional as I know many of us have no income for the foreseeable future. You’ll also be able to access these videos at your convenience anytime after the live stream ends. I’ll be offering some classes through The Hutto Yoga Room and Black Swan Yoga as well, and will announce those separately. Here’s the weekly schedule: SUNDAY Evening Chill (relaxing and slow): 8pm CDT (9pm EDT/7pm MDT/6pm PDT) MONDAY Morning Flow: 9am CDT (10am EDT/8am MDT/7am PDT) TUESDAY Morning Flow: 10am CDT (11am EDT/9am MDT/8am PDT) WEDNESDAY Morning Flow: 9am CDT (10am EDT/8am MDT/7am PDT) THURSDAY Morning Flow: 10am CDT (11am EDT/9am MDT/8am PDT) FRIDAY Flyin’ Friday (more options for arm balances and inversions): 12pm CDT (1pm EDT/11am MDT/10am PDT) SATURDAY Morning Flow: 10:30am CDT (11:30am EDT/9:30am MDT/8:30am PDT) . . . . . #yoga #quarantineyoga #yogainthetimeofcorona #yogatoflattenthecurve #freeyoga #donationyoga #stralayoga #movebreathebe #mentalhealth #yogaforanxiety #yogafordepression

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Violinist and yogi Bridgid Bibbens is offering free yoga classes live on her personal Facebook page “as long as we’re all cooped up together.” Access public lessons on grounding movement and centering breath.

7. Cooking Tips

Baroque violinist and food blogger Sarah Jane Kenner, who has the Instagram handle “hungrymusician,” posted a unique offer on her page: She’ll plan your dinner. “Message me what’s in your pantry, fridge, or freezer,” she wrote. “I’ll help you cook a meal!” Fans can message Kenner with sundry items they have on hand and she’ll provide a meal and recipe plan. Meanwhile, she’s showing off her quarantine meals, including tomato-studded focaccia.

Neave Trio cellist Mikhail Veselov started an Instagram cooking channel @doma_mischa, which roughly translates to “Mischa at home,” where he’s sharing daily recipes including pan-seared salmon and squid-ink aioli.

What’s some creative string-player content you’ve discovered that’s lifted your spirits? Comment below!

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