Piedmont couple Zooms with Oakland Symphony
By Lou Fancher
Partners for 36 years in marriage and work — she, a published author/writer; he, a commercial real estate broker/developer — longtime Piedmont residents Lisa Braver Moss and Mark Moss never expected to be making music by Zoom or performing together on a YouTube music video. But they, along with 128 other musicians in a new video from the Oakland Symphony, perform the Bill Withers’ classic 1972 song, Lean On Me,
Led by Oakland Symphony Chorus Director Lynne Morrow, Oakland Symphony cellist and MUSE mentor Elizabeth Vandervennet, oboist Andrea Plesnarski, french horn player Alicia Telford, and flautist Amy Likar, the video was edited by Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra Conductor Omid Zoufonoun. Featured in the uplifting Zoom video are musicians from age 8 to 86, including members of the chorus and symphony joined by 30 participants of the symphony’s MUSE education program. MUSE reaches over 16,000 youths annually, regardless of their economic situation.
Vital to the participants and to the Moss family, is communal music-making. During the pandemic, not singing with the choir every Wednesday and in performances has been a loss. “We’re very sad because it’s an important part of our week,” Lisa Braver Moss said in an interview. “We sing on Tuesdays in the Temple Sinai choir and on Wednesday with the Oakland Symphony Choir. But singers are super spreaders so I don’t know when we’ll have that joy of making music together again.”
Distraction from the distress of the pandemic and related isolation arrives in projects like the undertaking that resulted in the video.
Moss and her husband practiced with other choir members as a group with Morrow, the chorus’ conductor, as a facilitator. “We all met on Zoom. She gave us a run-through and then we just barreled through it on our own.” Because there’s a time lag with Zoom, users must put the program on mute while rehearsing. “It’s utter chaos if you don’t,” she warned. “The program doesn’t know who to focus on if there’s two, let alone two hundred people signing or talking at the same time.”
With practice on their own, the duo listened to one recording — one earpiece for each person, plugged into an iPhone — while recording their cut on a laptop. Moss said Zoufonoun’s edited video of 130 musicians performing one song at different times and locations is “a marvel.”
Asked about the first repertoire she’d like to sing with the choir when a vaccine is available or restrictions lift, Moss selected any work by American composer Eric Witacre, because his contemporary choir music is “glorious,” or Mass for Freedom, an Oakland Symphony commission by Michael T. Roberts that is based on traditional African American spirituals with selected text from the Latin Mass Ordinary.
Until the time they can safely congregate, Moss holds close to music and its sustaining power when sung in community. “It’s just an amazing experience because it depends on the whole group. It’s not about individual singers and it’s a wonderful outlet. You can get a great sound without having to be great oneself.”