The Blair String Quartet performs online and in 3D virtual reality

The Blair String Quartet records Vanderbilt’s first-ever virtual reality concert.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced performing arts organizations to get increasingly creative in how we present performances both safely and accessibly. Thanks to the tireless work of our technical crew, the Blair On Air live-streamed fall concert series has been a huge success so far. And this month we’re taking the technological leap into virtual reality.

The virtual-reality performance is accessible via this YouTube link

One of the pieces on the Blair String Quartet‘s October 2 recital has been filmed with a 3D virtual reality camera, in addition to conventional filming. Viewers who possess VR goggles will be able to experience this piece entirely immersively, as if you were standing in the middle of the players while they perform. (Viewers who do not have VR goggles can still take advantage of some of the 3D effects.)

“One of the most important things that we’re doing here at Blair is reaching out to new and diverse audiences, so one of the most important starting points for that is meeting people where they are,” said Dean Lorenzo F. Candelaria. “If you think about how so many of our young people these days are … immersing themselves in music, it’s through things like virtual reality, it’s things like gaming, it’s things like YouTube, so I think this is a really important step for us.

“The idea of using virtual reality is incredible,” Candelaria added. “It puts the audience in the middle of the experience. What a transformative opportunity that is, to be sitting in the middle and looking and living within the music that is being made right there by the Blair String Quartet!”

While we would all prefer to be performing in front of live concertgoers, the no-audience format is giving us the freedom to explore new avenues to bring music to our patrons in different and innovative ways. We hope you enjoy it!

About the program

“2020 has brought many things, but one reason to celebrate is that it is still Beethoven’s birthday, celebrating his 250th,” says Blair String Quartet first violinist Stephen Miahky, “so we’ll be concluding the concert with Beethoven’s Op. 127 Quartet in E-flat major, the first of his late quartets. And while Beethoven was a revolutionary musician and artist, he was also a forward-thinking person in terms of equality and rights for all. That’s why we’ll be pairing the Beethoven with pieces by two Black composers, Jessie Montgomery and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.”

Montgomery’s composition, Break Away, is the virtual reality piece. Written in five moments, it calls on popular styles such as jazz, hip hop and rock, and also has several moments of improvisation from the players.

The next piece on the program is the 5 Fantasiestucke, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  At the turn of the 20th century, Coleridge-Taylor was one of the most popular and often-performed composers. His music reflects the language of contemporaries such as Grieg, Dvorak, Smetana, and Brahms.

The program will conclude with the Beethoven quartet.

The program will be live streamed via the Blair website at 8 p.m. Friday, October 2. The virtual reality piece will be posted to YouTube at the same time, and will be linked from the live-streaming page.