Bader Centre teams up with CBC Music to host online cello competition

COVID-19 restrictions expand the reach of eight Canadian cellists

The Bader's first live-streamed music competition recently took place in Kingston.
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In response to quarantine measures, the Bader Centre teamed up with CBC Music to broadcast its Cello  Competition online.

The Bader and Overton Canadian Cello Competition took place on June 24, 25, and 27 with the eight participants broadcasting live from their homes in seven different cities across three different countries: Canada, the United States, and Germany.

The jury chose three finalists: Bryan Cheng, Leland Ko, and Andreas Schmalhofer. 

The Journal spoke to the Isabel Bader Centre’s director Tricia Baldwin about the experience collaborating with CBC and the eight cellists to live-stream classical music to the world. 

Baldwin said this year’s event was a follow-up to Bader’s 2017 Violin Competition, which took place at the Isabel in Kingston. However, when quarantine measures and travel restrictions took effect, it became impossible to host the cellists in-person. 

 “We could have said COVID’s here [so] let’s just cancel everything, but we wanted to champion these young artists,” Baldwin said. “These eight cellists are fabulous.”

According to Baldwin, the challenge then was “to show the musicians at their full strength” and produce the best possible sound quality for the judges and listeners.

To do so, the team at the Bader Centre and CBC had to ensure each of the musicians had access to reliable recording equipment. This involved sending each of the competitors two stereo microphones and setting them up with Studio6 recording software. 

“We did a lot of experimentation to get a great sound,” Baldwin said. 

She explained the team needed to make sure not to compress the sound too much while streaming “because that’s what makes [audio] sound like a bad car radio.” 

To prevent this, Baldwin consulted with experts in the field, including Bader’s Technical Director Aaron Holmberg, who was the recording producer for The Tragically Hip for 20 years. 

Baldwin was enthusiastic about how the Bader Centre’s foray into live-streaming has opened up new possibilities for emerging artists. Ironically, the stay-at-home order inspired the Isabel to expand the reach of its artists far beyond the walls of its venue. 

“They can go away with high-fidelity sound and high-definition filming that they can use for other [streaming] opportunities,” she said. “Some of the greatest innovations from the Arts have happened during hard times.”

One of the challenges of COVID-19 for performers, Baldwin continued, is the anguish caused by not being able to perform.  “That urgency of ‘Gotta play’ or if you’re a dancer ‘Gotta dance’ – it’s a real urgency for performance,” she said. 

In that vein, the virtue of a performing arts competition is to prevent stagnation and to provide artists with a benchmark to aspire to, enabling them to further develop their talents. 

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