Live again at last! The euphoria generated by once more being able to experience a “real” ECMA session was on full display in late May of this year when the members of six ensembles came together in Grafenegg. This session witnessed an entire week of intense rehearsals coached by an international group of teachers and was crowned by a best-of concert before a nearly 200-strong audience. Since 2004, ECMA – the European Chamber Music Academy has been holding such multi-day intensive training sessions for young chamber music ensembles at partner institutions located all over Europe.
Even during the recent period of extended dormancy, during which it was impossible to travel or play together, ECMA kept in close touch with its over 30 active ensembles and held weekly “ECMA Jours fixes” online that brought together up to 60 individuals at a time and included lectures and discussions offering food for thought. Lilia Jekova and Kalina Miteva, of the Bulgarian chamber ensemble Silhouettes, hardly missed a single one: „These meetings really kept the ECMA spirit alive for us. There was such a variety of lectures, and we’d always spend the rest of the week discussing how we could employ these ideas for our ensemble.“
ECMA’s artistic directors Hatto Beyerle, Johannes Meissl, and Patrick Jüdt also engaged in individual online work with several groups, which went surprisingly well—best of all when using the low latency audio-visual streaming system LOLA, which the mdw has been employing successfully for several years now, as well as via combined setups comprised of streaming and Zoom or just Zoom’s High-Fidelity Music Mode. ”The essential ingredient in all forms of live online teaching is, of course, having an Internet connection that’s stable and fast on both ends. And the better the available equipment, such as microphones, camera, and headphones, the closer we can get to a physically present working situation. Which means, of course, that the range of experiences is quite broad…”, says Johannes Meissl. These technologies were also used for the ECMA Sessions in the Hague, Paris, and Oslo, which—in pandemic mode—took place either online or in hybrid form with local ensembles on location and other groups present virtually.
The essential ingredient in all forms of live online teaching is, of course, having an Internet connection that’s stable and fast on both ends. And the better the available equipment, such as microphones, camera, and headphones, the closer we can get to a physically present working situation. Which means, of course, that the range of experiences is quite broad…
Johannes Meissl, Vice Rector for International Affairs and Art
Now, however, live sessions are back—with expanded offerings thanks to the cooperative project “ECMA Pro – International Career Development and Socially Engaged Outreach in Chamber Music”, sponsored by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme. This project’s career development training sessions and development of new concert formats went forward for the first time in Grafenegg and in Fiesole near Florence. An online workshop with musicians’ coach Kirsten Peters kicked off the mdw’s session in Grafenegg, after which the successful ECMA alumnae Minna Pensola and Karla Haltenwanger introduced new concert formats that they had developed together with their ensembles. And in his workshop “Let’s Play”, percussionist and director Thomas Toppler then encouraged the participating ensembles to harness playfulness in their musical and interpersonal collaboration: “To play entails nothing more than to look: What’s in the text?“ is how Toppler describes his concept. „How softly can we play, how well can we serve the leading part, how closely can we listen to the intonation? If I define all that as a game, it makes me more open and more daring. There’s no longer any fear of failure: we just try things out, and if we like the game we’re playing, then everyone knows what to do.”
At the ECMA Session in Fiesole, pianist and artistic director Alexander Lonquich and Brazilian pianist Ricardo Castro discussed individual concert formats and focuses together with the ensembles. These training sessions were intended to help the ensembles develop their own unique profiles, which join artistic quality as factors behind concert organizers’ decisions to invite them to perform.
This autumn will see the ECMA ensembles—supported financially by ECMA Pro—travel once more: to showcases in Ghent and Budapest and to ECMA Sessions in the Hague and Oslo. For while the pandemic did demonstrate that online teaching can be effective, it also showed how it cannot replace direct, personal exchange.
More information at ecma-music.com/en/ecmapro