Menu

At the Richmond Symphony, VCU students will offer tonight’s audience an inside look

15 student volunteers will operate an array of cameras to provide close-up, live video of the performance that will be projected on stage.

Featured photo
Amy Comstock, a junior print and online journalism major, will be part of a team of VCU students operating video cameras during tonight's Richmond Symphony performance. (Photos by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)

At Friday night’s performance of the Richmond Symphony, a team of Virginia Commonwealth University student volunteers will be manning an array of cameras stationed on stage that will feed live video to an LED wall, providing the audience with a rare glimpse of what it’s like to be amid an orchestra as it performs.

“It will be almost like you’re sitting on stage,” said Laura Bordner Adams, director of orchestral operations for the Richmond Symphony. “You’ll be able to see the trumpet player as he’s playing two feet away as he’s playing the most famous passage of the piece. You might be able to see the conductor from the front and see his facial expressions as he’s conducting, which you never get to see as you’re sitting in the audience. The idea is that this will really give you an insider look.”

Gary Gillam, director of production services at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, gives direction to broadcast journalism majors Niyah Coles and Sean Boyce.
Gary Gillam, director of production services at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, gives direction to broadcast journalism majors Niyah Coles and Sean Boyce.

The Richmond Symphony’s experiment with live videography is the result of a partnership between the symphony and the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

“My crew of students will be manning cameras for a large — really large — screen projection during the symphony performance,” said Gary Gillam, director of production services for the Robertson School. “I will be directing it with help from an associate conductor, [Chia-Hsuan Lin], prompting as she follows along with the music score. It is a true connection with the local professional fine arts community here in Richmond.”

Devon Eifel, a junior broadcast journalism major in the Robertson School, is part of the crew of VCU students. She will be stationed on a riser, manning a camera to get video of the conductor, the nearby percussion section and a wide shot of the orchestra.

“When the audience is here for the show, they’ll be seeing video from our cameras, beaming it up on the main screen. It’s pretty cool,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I watch the Oscars and I’m always like, ‘That’s amazing.’ So it’s kind of as close as I’ll get to that, at least for now.”

Behind the scenes, broadcast journalism majors Sean Boyce, a senior, and Niyah Coles, a sophomore, will operate a pair of PTZ — or pan, tilt, zoom — cameras that have been installed on stage.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to put something on my resume and get real-world experience,” Boyce said. “And also I love music — I was in chorus in high school — so being able to be involved in something as artistic as this was meaningful to me.”

Broadcast journalism majors Niyah Coles and Sean Boyce operate pan-tilt-zoom cameras behind the scenes during Thursday's dress rehearsal.
Broadcast journalism majors Niyah Coles and Sean Boyce operate pan-tilt-zoom cameras behind the scenes during Thursday's dress rehearsal.

Friday’s performance, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is part of the Richmond Symphony’s Dominion Energy Casual Fridays series, in which audience members are invited to dress casually and attend 60-minute concerts that showcase great works from the classical repertoire.

“The Casual Friday series was started a few years ago to allow folks that might possibly be intimidated by the symphony to give them a door into Symphony 101, if you will,” said Bordner Adams. “It’s exactly what it sounds like — it’s casual, and it’s on a Friday at 6:30 p.m., so you can come see an hourlong show and then go out to dinner or whatever else you might like to do.”

This evening, the symphony will be performing “Pictures at an Exhibition. A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann,” a suite of 10 movements written by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.

Each movement of the piece was inspired by a different piece of art. During tonight’s performance, works of art selected by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will be displayed on the LED wall, paired with each movement from “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

“You will be able to actually see a piece of art that may actually be the original piece that inspired the composer,” said Bordner Adams. “Only seven of the original pieces of art remain in existence, three have been lost. So for the three that have been lost, we have chosen three pieces of art that may represent that same time period, the same painter, or a similar story in art.”

Tickets to the performance are available at: https://www.richmondsymphony.com/event/pictures-at-an-exhibition-2/2018-03-09/

Erica Mokun, a junior broadcast journalism major, takes a break from operating a video camera during a rehearsal of the Richmond Symphony.
Erica Mokun, a junior broadcast journalism major, takes a break from operating a video camera during a rehearsal of the Richmond Symphony.