The Magic Of Music

The Magic Of Music

SoNA comes together for virtual performance


Paul Haas is having the best possible time in quarantine, “catching bee swarms (currently at eight hives), planting over a hundred fruit trees, building and planting a 1,200-square-foot vegetable garden, building community in the form of food-sharing with friends and neighbors, renovating a kitchen, fixing AC condensers — and generally having a blast celebrating life with my wife and kids. I’m a lucky guy, and I know it,” he emails from upstate New York.

“We do what everyone else does, with the addition of making beautiful music,” he adds. “I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by music 24/7 with my wife [a violinist] and kids.”

But that doesn’t mean Haas isn’t yearning to get back to “normal” — which includes conducting the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. To that end, he and orchestra members, with the help of composer, vocalist and pianist Paul Fowler — also an audio and video engineer whom Haas handpicked for the project — produced a virtual performance of Ravel’s “Bolero,” available now at or on the symphony’s YouTube channel.

“It’s really just one of the most famous pieces out there, and an unabashed celebration of our humanity,” Haas says with his signature enthusiasm.

Haas explains that each musician recorded separately, then the performance was put together by Fowler, whose work “Tapu’at” was performed by SoNA in 2014.

“Was it live? No,” Maestro Paul Haas says of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas coming together virtually to record Ravel’s “Bolero.” “Did it feel live performing it? Yes. Did it bring tears to my eyes when watching my colleagues on the big screen? Absolutely.” The performance is available free at
(Courtesy Photo)

“There’s no one I trust more than Paul in the intersection of music and technology,” Haas says. “I simply knew he’d deliver for us.”

It took no time for 40 musicians to commit to the project, Haas says. They were were instructed how to record their individual parts in both audio and video from their favorite spot at home, church or wherever they chose, and providing a click track and reference recording in advance solved any issues of coming together on timing and intonation, Haas explains.

As for inspiration, Haas says that was easy, at least for him.

“I just closed my eyes a bit and imagined my friends and colleagues all together again,” he says. “I miss being able to make music with them incredibly. As I was filming my portion on my back deck, a pair of butterflies flew by me, mating. That was a total rush, bringing a smile to my face, as you might imagine!

“The pandemic cuts deeply at our basic human need to come together and share thoughts and feelings with each other, and that’s what spurred this project,” Haas says. “We love our audiences, and we love Northwest Arkansas, and I know that message comes through in spades in this video.

“Was it live? No. Did it feel live performing it? Yes. Did it bring tears to my eyes when watching my colleagues on the big screen? Absolutely,” he goes on. “If we can create on this level when the universe throws a pandemic at us, I’m pretty sure we can and will thrive regardless of what the future holds.”

SoNA’s 2020-21 season is set to begin in October and continue through next May, with six mainstage concerts at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. The season opener is Masterworks I: Mozart and Beethoven at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17. Asked what he’ll do to make it special, Haas almost laughs.

“Honestly, nothing can make it more magical than the very fact that we’ll be coming together as a body, making music again,” he says. “We’ve all been hungering for that moment, and — when it comes — the floodgates will burst!”

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Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ or on the symphony’s YouTube channel

Categories: Music