The Violin Channel talked exclusively with the 2021 Menuhin Competition Richmond team, welcoming in the first-ever virtual competition!
When Richmond was selected as the 2020 destination for the “Olympics of the Violin,” Mayor Levar Stoney led a delegation to Geneva to accept the honor, and we began making plans for 11 days of festivities to celebrate the tremendous young violinists who would be our guests. We created a “welcoming committee” of Richmond institutions to act as co-hosts: the Richmond Symphony, the City of Richmond, VPM, University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Then, in March of 2020, just two months before the Competition was scheduled to land in Richmond, COVID-19 swept into the US and around the world. As we watched concert venues and cultural organizations around the world shut their doors, we were also forced to postpone the event. The plan was to delay for a year and then hold the Competition in Richmond as planned in 2021 when everything was back to “normal.” That didn’t quite work out as planned, either; but when it became clear that we had to move the entire Competition online, we were inspired to produce an event that would be exciting nonetheless, and we worked closely with the Menuhin Competition Trust and their artistic director Gordon Back to create the first-ever virtual Menuhin Competition.
There would be many challenges ahead of us, and as the host city, we knew that one of them was going to be bringing Richmond into the digital space. We wanted to introduce Menuhin Competition viewers and participants to the creative, innovative spirit that powers the city. We worked with VCU to create Violin Day, a day of workshops from Richmond music educators and fiddler Mark O’Connor, culminating in a performance from Mark and his wife, Maggie O’Connor. Competitors have been virtually visiting Richmond classrooms, including the Richmond Symphony’s own Youth Orchestra Program to connect with local students and share their music and experiences.
The festivities begin this evening with two live concerts in Richmond by the Richmond Symphony, featuring violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, a Menuhin Competition laureate, and one of this year’s jurors, performing the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Bound Away. (This new work was commissioned by the Richmond Symphony for the Competition and is one of the pieces to be performed by the Junior Finalists.) We will be streaming parts of this concert as part of our Gala Presentation at the end of the Competition on May 23 and hope you can join us!
Between the Competition Semi-Final and Final Rounds, we’re so pleased to present concerts from two violinists who defy genres: Regina Carter, whose roots are in jazz, on Monday, May 17; and master fiddler and composer Mark O’Connor and his wife Maggie on Wednesday, May 19. In addition, both of them have personal stories of meeting Yehudi Menuhin himself, who loved other genres of music, and who directly inspired them on their less-than-typical musical journeys when they were young. On Thursday, May 20, we’ll hear from the Sphinx Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra comprised of the United States’ top Black and Latinx classical soloists. Lastly, on Friday, May 21, we’ll be hosting a panel discussion with Sphinx founder and juror Aaron Dworkin on “The Danger of a Single Story: The Importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Arts and Their Role in Society,” along with Richmond arts leaders from the dance and fine arts world as well as music.
We wish you were here with us in Richmond, and we want to welcome all of you — albeit virtually — to our terrific city. We hope to be able to bring some of the Menuhin Competition competitors to Richmond in person once it is safe to do so. In the meantime, make yourself comfortable and join us in listening to some incredible music this week!
-2021 Menuhin Competition Team