By Danielle Ames Spivak, Executive Vice President & CEO of the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Let me take you behind the scenes of an event we are currently planning, the Israel Philharmonic Pre-Hanukkah Global Celebration. We knew instinctively that it would center on messages of light, hope, and miracles. The winter holidays always focus on those themes, yet they are more timely and relevant than ever in this difficult year.
This kernel of inspiration developed into the ambitious project of lining up a roster of music luminaries who could share our vision and impart positive messages about unity and hope. We’re thrilled to have found so many remarkable guests who embraced the opportunity to bring joy to others during this meaningful season. Even though live performances have practically disappeared for now, talented creatives keep full schedules creating virtual content, so we are especially grateful that they made the time to join us.
Planning a virtual event is very different than planning a live one. Fortunately, this isn’t our first. It’s a skill we’ve honed—along with the rest of the world—over recent months. The Israel Phil has been putting out engaging video content since the beginning of the pandemic, and we hosted a successful large-scale gala in June.
With a live event this size, we would have researched and booked a suitable venue many months ago. Eliminating the venue knocks a major item off our to-do list—but it also creates its own challenges.
When we bring an audience into a space, the atmosphere occurs naturally. That’s not to say it happens easily—it takes many hours of work, planning, and coordination by dozens of devoted people—but once the audience steps into that room, they’ve stepped into our world, a world of music and elegance.
Creating atmosphere for an online event, with our audience ensconced in their respective homes, is much more difficult. But we enjoy the creative challenge of creating an immersive festive experience onscreen, working behind the scenes with a skilled production team and adapting our content to the varied, “sonatina-sized” segments that virtual entertainment demands.
We faced logistical challenges as well, with performers across the world, and film and sound crews to match. The lack of a central location makes it much more challenging to control every aspect of the event and create a seamless, polished experience for the audience. But with a global pandemic raging, making sure every member of the production stayed safe was our top priority.
I am deeply indebted to Tali Gottlieb, executive director of the Israel Philharmonic Foundation, our sister organization in Israel, for collaborating with us closely from across the world and coordinating the production process for the performers in Israel. I also extend my thanks to the AFIPO board and events committee for helping us make this happen. Putting together an event on the scale of the Israel Phil’s Pre-Hanukkah Global Celebration is a true collaborative process, and I am grateful to work with so many wonderfully dedicated people.
Bringing people together through music, especially during these times of isolation, is not easy, but it is a true labor of love. Music is vitally important as a stabilizing and positive force during these challenging times. I feel so privileged to bring you this artistic extravaganza to bring light and joy to you this Hanukkah season. I know you’re going to love it!
Listen to Danielle discuss more behind the scenes insights, “the little comforts” in a Zoom world, nourishing virtual content, and how the Israel Philharmonic is bringing solace to the world on the “Pandemic Times” Podcast with the Jewish Journal’s David Suissa.