Asia: Classical Music Adjusts To COVID, ASEAN, Drive-Ins

Classical Music Adjusts For COVID
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports that Tokyo’s avid classical music community has hit on new ways to show their appreciation to musicians during the coronavirus crisis. 
The Japanese capital is home to a half dozen world-class orchestras, which suspended all live performances between February and July. Once concerts restarted on a limited basis, with smaller audiences restricted by social distancing rules, some common habits had to be modified. 
At the return concert of the newspaper’s own Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra on July 5, one enterprising subscriber brought a piece of paper with the word “Bravo!” printed on it, which they flashed to show their appreciation at the end of a piece, since the usual effusive response of yelling “bravo!” was frowned upon under the new circumstances since loud exclamations could spread the virus more easily. Sometime thereafter, the orchestra itself distributed towels to audience members with “bravo” printed on them so they could do the same thing. 
Another innovation was devised by the world-famous Bach Collegium Japan, a baroque orchestra and choir that often performs Bach masses. Lately the ensemble has reversed its typical stage setting by placing the choir before the orchestra at the front of the stage fanned out with extra space next to the conductor with acrylic screens positioned between each singer for an extra measure of protection. 
The idea was suggested by an infectious disease expert. Similarly, at a performance of “Carmen” by the Fujiwara Opera Company in mid-August, all soloists and chorus members wore face shields, with the orchestra spread out on stage instead of in the pit.
Other ideas that have become commonplace at classical and traditional music concerts include waving hands instead of clapping and cheering, distributing glow sticks that can be waved to show appreciation, and prohibiting refreshments from being sold during intermissions. The main idea, as the Yomiuri pointed out, is to find ways of continuing concert traditions by modifying some of its customs. 
Similar countermeasures have been institutionalized by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, South Korea’s premier classical music ensemble, since it started performing again in June. All musicians except wind instruments now wear masks on stage, including the conductor. Transparent plastic barriers are placed in front of the brass and woodwind players. 
The president of the orchestra, Kang Eun-kyung, told the Korea Herald, “The biggest concern was the health of the orchestra. The music director and I agreed that the health of the orchestra members and the quality of the performances could never be compromised.” 
After four months of inactivity due to a lockdown, many members of the group said they were uncomfortable going back on stage, so the management made a special effort to keep them safe. 
The SPO’s new music director, Osmo Vanska, was originally slated to bring the Minnesota Orchestra, which he has led for two decades, to South Korea for concerts in June but the tour was cancelled. Instead the group worked with the SPO online for a series of works with the SPO performing in an empty concert hall and members of the Minnesota Orchestra joining in remotely as individuals. The pandemic has also allowed the SPO to pursue a project it has been thinking about for a long time, the making of a digital archive such as the one maintained by the Berlin Philharmonic with its Digital Concert Hall, a paid subscription service. 
With a recent resurgence of infections, the SPO was forced to call off its in-person performances from the middle of August. In addition, a slight scandal emerged when it was discovered that a member of the orchestra had contracted the virus after giving private lessons to a high school student. 
The member may be punished because employees of state-run music ensembles are prohibited from giving private lessons, though, according to the Korea Times, its a rule that is commonly flouted due to how much more money instrumentalists can make as tutors than they make as performers.
ASEAN Announces September Lineup
– ASEAN Music Showcase Festival

The first ASEAN Music Showcase Festival has been announced. The two-day event, which will be streamed online, will take place Sept. 19-20 as a platform to “elevate Southeast Asia’s music scene to the world stage,” according to NME Asia. As of now the lineup consists of twenty artists from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

AMS will be live streamed worldwide, and was launched by a group of festival promoters, conference organizers and music community influencers from the five representative countries. 
The festival’s website states, “AMS takes on the challenge of providing networking opportunities for emerging musicians in Asia and global music industry leaders, while hurdling the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic through a virtual music gathering that celebrates the region’s finest.” The lineup was “hand-picked” by the founding members, which include Singapore’s SGMUSO, Thailand’s Bangkok Music City co-founded by Fungjai Co., Ltd. and Nylon Thailand, Malaysia’s City Roars Festival, Indonesia’s SRM and the Philippines’ The Rest Is Noise PH. 
The event will also feature a private meet-up with some prominent and promising International music professionals and up-and-coming, as well as established, artists from all over Asia. Among these will be representatives of SXSW, Live At Heart Newfoundland, Warner Music Asia, Clockenflap (Hong Kong) and Baybeats Festival. 
Drive-In Concerts Hit Jakarta
Drive-in concerts have now spread to Indonesia. On August 29, the pop group Kahitna performed in front of hundreds of parked cars on a stage in the capital of Jakarta for two hours. Kahitna were a popular group in the 1990s, so the concert was mostly a nostalgic affair, and during the performance listeners would honk their horns and flash their lights in appreciation. 
As of August 30, Indonesia had a total of 172,000 cases of COVID-19 resulting in more than 7,000 deaths. Though the organizers of the concert said it was a means of both giving Jakartans a rare night out and providing a boost for the local entertainment industry, they were very serious about the way the concert was planned. Safety was the priority. Though everyone could only attend in their automobiles, they still had to wear masks and provide proof beforehand that they were not infected by submitting negative test results. 
There were two concerts in all. Each drew 300 cars comprising about 900 concertgoers. The concert was broadcast on a local FM station, which the attendants received on their car radios. Each vehicle was sprayed with disinfectant on arrival and was given a carbon detector to alert occupants that levels of the gas inside the car was becoming dangerously high so that they could open their windows.
One music industry expert told Channel News Asia that the situation for musicians in the country was becoming quite desperate. “If the drive-in concept could have a strict protocol and tight discipline from the audience,” he said, “it could be one of the new breakthroughs.”