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Socially-Distanced Outdoor Concerts Selling Out in Alexandria, Virginia

Live concerts and costume contests!

ALEXANDRIA, VA- Social distancing has affected every facet of life from work, to education, to entertainment. Classical Movements is countering that effect, introducing live classical music in a socially-distanced setting. As musicians perform underneath a pergola surrounded by lush foliage, the Secret Garden at The Rectory series is becoming the new social hub for all Alexandrians. On a crisp fall day, with children adorned in costume, it was recently the perfect setting for a magic Halloween concert on Saturday, October 31.

Preparing for the performance.

Classical Movements began its Covid-era live music endeavor on Saturday, June 20 of this year. While the concept of attending a live music concert might seem in the distant past or a dream of the future, Classical Movements has made it a reality. The first in the United States to re-introduce live music since Covid-19, Classical Movements presented three sold-out concerts of chamber music, featuring notable musicians from the Alexandria Symphony, National Symphony, and other local ensembles. As entertainment stalls inside American homes, people across the nation are eager to once again participate in and appreciate live, communal events.

The Rectory of Christ Church is now the home to dozens of outdoor concerts. (Photo: Grace Billups Arnold)

Performing in the Secret Garden at The Rectory in Old Town Alexandria, Classical Movements has already put on twenty-three concerts for 926 audience members under the banner “Sounds of Hope & Harmony.”

22 More to Come

Classical Movements is continuing their refreshing concert series with their new banner “Sounds of Joy & Light.” Beginning on Halloween, the Secret Garden hosted four programs: two family programs and two evening programs. Twenty-two outdoor programs will follow through December to celebrate the holiday season in a new but necessary way.

This Saturday, Classical Movements launched “Sounds of Joy & Light,” featuring Drew Owen as Musico the Magnificent, and his wife Elizabeth Pulju-Owen, a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House, at The Rectory’s Secret Garden. “These days, anytime I get to perform for a live audience is really a treat,” says Drew. Elizabeth agrees, “The point of playing music is to share it with an audience.”

The magical duo performed stage magic along with classical music, from Bach to the Darth Vader theme, entrancing the children in attendance. The audience giggled and engaged with the performers in an eerily normal setting.

Elizabeth Pulju-Owen joins Music the Magnificent on stage.

To accompany the concerts, the Secret Garden held costume contests judged by Penny Hairston, Principal of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, at 1pm, and James Ross, Music Director of the Alexandria Symphony, at 2:30pm. Winners of the costume contest were granted prizes as families perused the gardens, delighting in a ‘socially-distant’ photo station and ‘no-contact’ treats.

A scary goblin descends the stairs in The Rectory.
The winner of the 1pm costume contest, a Plague Doctor.

Adam Jackson, Artistic Planning and Executive Assistant to the President of Classical Movements, states, “We feel that enjoying live music in a safe, socially-distanced way is more important now than ever, as we enter a holiday season that will be unlike anything we have experienced before.” As many families will remain apart for an unconventional holiday season, Jackson and everyone at Classical Movements attempts to provide some sense of comradery.

“The response from both artists and audience members has been effusive; audience members have particularly appreciated the thoughtfulness and variety of the programming—and above all the opportunity to hear live music in a safe, socially-distant setting,” says Jackson.

The concert series strives to present variety with both its music genres and musicians. The “Sounds of Hope and Harmony” featured chamber music, opera, art song, choir, and cabaret. The upcoming concerts in the “Sounds of Joy & Light” series will feature a similar breadth, including string and brass, hammered dulcimer, banjo and upright bass, cabaret, opera, and even Russian folk.

Watch Elizabeth play a bluegrass tune on the fiddle!

The wide range of musical genre accommodates all types of families, individuals, adults, and children. Classical Movements has “made a conscientious effort to be representative in both the performers and composers [they] feature.” Over the course of both musical series, they will have engaged 112 professional musicians, of whom 45 were women and 31 musicians of color.

In order to make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible for the audience and performers, Classical Movements is limiting the number of audience members to 40 for the family programs and 45 for all other programs, checking temperatures upon entry, and offering hand sanitizing stations throughout the site. As the weather continues to chill, Classical Movements has also invested in patio heaters and encourages attendees to BYOB—Bring Your Own Blanket!

Classical Movements keeps it safe with a sanitizing station.

Music has the power to unite even the most uncommon of folks, and there is a poetic irony about unity during times of necessary separation, but that separation makes the power of music all the more relevant right now. Neeta Helms, Founder and President of Classical Movements, agrees, “We want to make the Covid winter as beautiful and happy as possible… We should just spread the joy and light that we can.”

For more information regarding future programs and ticketing, visit the Classical Movements website.

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