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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

St. Louis Symphony, KETC Partner to Create New TV Series 'Night at the Symphony'

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 3:04 AM

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Bringing a high-quality series about classical music to life and having it become successful so quickly is no easy feat, though many television outlets have tried. But Night at the Symphony isn't like those older programs that simply positioned a camera on the balcony to point down at an orchestra and shoot indiscriminately.

"What is good television?" Crane asks, noting that the answer would be paramount to the success of the program. "Classical music is very hard to make into good television. I've certainly learned that along the way with this programming."

"What happens on the stage -- we already know it's world class and it's amazing," Ebsworth-Goold adds. "But the art form is really old, and it's not exactly breaking news."

Indeed, it takes quite a crew to successfully produce Night at the Symphony for today's discerning viewer. Four camera operators throughout Powell Hall and on the stage film every action the musicians make, while a conductor who's intimately familiar with that night's music advises the cameras about timing and upcoming solos. After filming, Paul Hennerich of Pan Galactic Company enhances the audio mix, and video and audio are married into the final product viewers see and hear on Channel 9. The Nine Network and the St. Louis Symphony have managed to create a dynamic, on-trend series at a surprisingly high production value with minimum budget -- something important to these two non-profits that have become cultural cornerstones in St. Louis.

"There's no substitute for the actual experience of sitting in Powell Hall and witnessing the symphony," cautions Murphy, "but in a way, you've got one of the best seats in the house. DVD quality -- completely as good as it gets."

"The musicians -- this is their life; this is important. They're trusting us with what they do, and we've been able to develop a level of trust with them, individually and with their union," Murphy continues. "We're able to do things that no other market in America has been able to do. It's just a wonderful combination. It really is a big deal."

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No other market has a symphony/public television model yet, but with the success of Night at the Symphony, that might be on the horizon.

"[We could] give them a handbook, all the inside baseball of how to be able to do this. We know how to do this now," Murphy says. "This really has the real potential of what television can mean and what it can do. This is the original mission of our [KETC] founders 60 years ago -- to be able to take really cool stuff like the symphony orchestra and bring it to people's houses, which before was never possible."

And it's happening because of collaboration. The St. Louis Symphony already had been working with 90.7 FM KWMU (St. Louis Public Radio) on highly successful weekly broadcasts, and this new partnership with the Nine Network only strengthens the orchestra's place among cultural touchstones both in St. Louis and throughout the nation.

"For us it's all about relevancy. The fact that St. Louis Public Radio and the Nine Network feel that we are relevant enough to give us primetime coverage on both of their networks on a regular basis in a partnership form, that's pretty unique," Crane says.

"I hope that this is the beginning of a very long relationship with Channel 9," Crane continues. "We're lucky to have such a committed PBS station in our market. They really want to be active in the arts and culture scene, and that's special."

Night at the Symphony is broadcast at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of every month on KETC-TV Channel 9, with a rebroadcast the following Sunday. The next installment, scheduled for February 2, will feature St. Louis Symphony music director David Robertson conducting selections by Mussorgsky, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Copland, with featured violinists Dana Edson Myers and Rebecca Boyer Hall. For the full schedule, visit ninenet.org/symphony.

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