For centuries, music has lifted the spirit to unite people everywhere, particularly during times of uncertainty. Nowhere is this more evident today than with The Cunningham Piano Online Ensemble—111 musicians and singers from 18 states and 9 different countries, including China, who have united online to demonstrate the power of music in the face of adversity.
Only a small fraction of these participants, who range in age from 9 to 72 years, had any previous connection with Cunningham Piano, which is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. And yet, here is an unprecedented gathering of musicians—students, amateurs and retirees make up the bulk of the ensemble—performing and singing with one powerful voice. Also joining are several Philadelphia orchestra members and world-renowned musicians, including Blair Tindall, oboist, and author of “Mozart and the Jungle”; Daniel Matsukawa, principal bassoonist of Philadelphia Orchestra; Jennifer Montone, principal horn of Philadelphia Orchestra; Jasmine Choi, international flutist; Mimi Stillman, renowned flutist; and Robert Goodlett, Asst. principal Contrabassist, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
For this project, Pianist Hugh Sung, Artist in Residence at Cunningham Piano in the Philadelphia area, along with Cunningham Piano Co-Owners Rich Galassini and Tim Oliver, selected a profoundly beautiful Mozart choral motet, “Ave Verum Corpus” which means “Hail to the (one) true body.” Most of the ensemble members only had smartphones, laptops, and tablets with which to record. Even so, Sung was able to use their submitted videos to produce a recording that is very close to professional, studio-level quality.
“We wanted to inspire people to come together even when we are apart. We can continue to make music together, as an ensemble, even under social distancing,” says Galassini. “Hugh immediately knew that private music teachers would be in demand as schools closed. Practicing and studying music was one part of normalcy that children, and all of us, could continue with during this tough time. Additionally, many music teachers needed to know more about teaching online. This project was born out of the desire to help one choral teacher teach her students online.”
At a time when people around the world are looking to have their spirits lifted, I hope that you agree that the Cunningham Piano Online Ensemble provides a beautiful message of how musicians become “one body” when they perform during this time of need.