By Katy Bowman
One of the holiday traditions I cherish most is attending my kids’ school concerts. After months of hearing them practice their instruments alone in their rooms, seeing them perform with their classmates in the school auditorium is a joyous occasion I look forward to all year.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 has canceled many of the live arts events that help make the holidays merry and bright. The dance recitals, musicals, and concerts, church singalongs and Nutcracker performances, community theater and Broadway shows that usually lift our spirits are going to be sorely missed this winter. But there are still plenty of ways to appreciate the performing arts this season, and even make new traditions that last beyond quarantine.
Make your own music. Online instruction is available for beginners, as well as for kids not getting the lessons they normally receive at school. Most music schools and instructors are offering virtual lessons, and many have produced tutorials on everything from reading music to theory and technique. Find them on YouTube or by looking up music schools in your area.
Share your talents. This is easier now than ever. Students whose teacher or school is planning a virtual performance can send a link inviting family and friends to tune in. Zoë Johnstone Stewart, chair of the guitar department at Peabody Preparatory of Johns Hopkins University, said a recent virtual Peabody recital, broadcast via Zoom, drew loved ones from around the world. “It was wonderful because all of these people could see their family members perform who could never do that before,” she said. “We had people from Abu Dhabi and Austria, and grandparents from far away who were able to be a part of their performance, and it was delightful.”
Families can also arrange their own recital, and invite loved ones to join in virtually, either as participants or spectators. Mom, tune up that oboe you haven’t touched since eighth grade, and Dad, start rattling that tambourine or noodling away on the Casio keyboard. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but performing together will help you all stay engaged in the arts and express your creativity.
Create a video greeting. Since the spring, students in Peabody’s Performance Academy have been learning how to create their own music videos, Stewart said. At home, kids can use a phone, notebook, or laptop and get creative with festive backdrops, lighting, and editing to make a short musical greeting for family and friends, post it to a private YouTube or Vimeo account, and share the link via email or text.
Stage a porch performance. If weather permits, stage a concert, play, dance recital, or other performance from your porch or driveway and invite neighbors to bring chairs, marking an X at 6' apart with chalk or tape, said Rebecca Henry, co-chair of the string department at Peabody, who also suggested setting out a box to collect donations for your local food bank.
Watch past performances. Over the years, you’ve probably recorded, or ordered DVDs of, your children’s precious music or dance productions. If there was ever a time to actually watch them, it’s now — so put on your PJs, pop some popcorn, dim the lights, sit back and enjoy the show.
Bust a move together. Families around the world have turned their homes into amateur dance studios during quarantine while joining the TikTok craze. If you’re up for the challenge, check out this handy parents’ guideand get ready to spend hours honing your Tootsie Slide, Chicken Wing, and Kick Drop (ripped jeans are optional). If you’re having trouble nailing the moves, check out the countless YouTube tutorials that break down dances for beginners. Once you’ve nailed the basics, try choreographing your own original family dance number.
Stage a magic show. Break out your top hats and endless stream of scarves, and get ready to show off your best optical illusions. Everyone can get join the action by learning one trick, be it pulling a quarter out of sister’s ear, getting crafty with a deck of cards, or making crayons disappear.
Host a poetry reading. Each family member can either write a poem expressing their sentiments about the holidays, family, reflections on the past year, or hopes for the year ahead — or find an existing poem to learn and recite for the group. Make it fancy with some tea and finger sandwiches or cookies.
Stream the greats: Once your family has put on all of the performances you can muster, sit back and let your living room become “the room where it happens” by accessing the stages of your favorite venues — from Broadway to the Sydney Opera House — on a growing number of streaming services. Fans of The Nutcrackercan check out this list of places to stream it this month. Here are other great places to binge the performing arts this season:
· Broadway HD subscription service offers live and previously recorded productions of Broadway musicals, ballet, Shakespeare, Cirque de Soleil, and more.
· The Kennedy Center’s Digital Stage features thousands of full concerts, and highlights from the past and present, including some extraordinary concerts performed by National Symphony Orchestra members together from their homes.
· MarqueeTV, which debuted earlier this year, is a UK-based performing-arts streaming service where subscribers can view works by performers around the world including the New York City Ballet, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and more.
· Billboard hosts a running list of upcoming livestream concerts from artists ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Sam Smith and Jessie J.
· Disney+. Come for Hamilton, stay for High School Musical singalongs, classic musical features like Annie and Sister Act, all the catchy soundtracks to favorite Disney classics, and original features like Beyoncé’s Black is King and Taylor Swift’s folklore.
· ALL Arts, from NYC’s public TV station WNET, features curated dance, music, theater performances and more on its free streaming site.
· London Symphony Orchestra hosts online events, including lunchtime concerts and “coffee sessions” — music to drink your coffee to, selected and introduced by their players from their homes.
· Stage Access is a monthly subscription service featuring concerts, dance, and opera performances from greats like Yo-Yo Ma, the Dutch National Ballet, and the LA Philharmonic performing works by John Williams.
· Netflix has a solid selection of musical content, including new hits like The Prom, Jingle Jangle, Selena: The Series, Blackpink: Light Up the Sky, and classics like Matilda and Dreamgirls.
· Amazon Prime Video’s “Holiday Plays” are streaming live throughout December, in addition to a trove of musical faves like Oliver Twist, Hairspray, and Pitch Perfect.