During a typical season at Chautauqua Institution, Chautauquans can look forward to the regular chimes and occasional serenades of the Miller Bell Tower. While the tower has been (mostly) silent this summer, Chautauqua Opera’s General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood is hoping to deliver a little piece of home to Chautauquans scattered across the country.
“People are probably really missing the sights and sounds of Chautauqua,” Osgood said. “What better one for us to find a way to bring them than the bell tower?”
For the next virtual Opera Invasion, Chautauqua Opera’s 2020 Young Artists will be performing hymns, showtunes and standards to a Miller Bell Tower accompaniment. The invasion will air at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 7, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
Osgood has utilized the bell tower in Opera Invasions before, like in 2017, when a group of Young Artists stood on the porch of the Athenaeum Hotel and sang with the chimes to celebrate President Michael E. Hill’s first Sunday on the job.
“That was challenging because you don’t hear as well from the porch,” he said. “The wind and the weather really affect how the bell tower sound travels, so the coordination of that event was incredibly silly and generally successful, but 100% fun.”
To create a virtual equivalent of that invasion, Osgood obtained permission to open the bell tower for one hour at the beginning of the season. A small film crew from the Institution’s marketing and communications team recorded sound and video of a local pianist performing 22 songs from the bells’ extensive repertoire. Each Young Artists recorded a video of them singing one of these songs, and Osgood has edited the footage with their performances.
“We’re bringing everybody a very peaceful Opera Invasion compared to most of what we do, but one thart I think is going to be really nostalgic for our audience,” he said.
Chautauquans can expect to hear “Amazing Grace,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “La Vie en Rose,” “The Impossible Dream,” and more.
“I’m not going to give away some of the juiciest ones,” Osgood said. “People are just going to have to tune in to find out.”
The event wouldn’t be possible without the help of Chautauqua’s staff members who are still on the grounds.
“(Because) we are so far away from Chautauqua putting this together, more than ever we relied on our colleagues who are at Chautauqua, busy doing their other things,” he said. “We had dozens of people who really turned and dedicated their time to helping us capture these recordings so that we could do this, and we’re incredibly grateful for that.”