This week’s peek into Baltimore’s art scene gets spooky, then inspirational and, finally, goes behind the scenes of a theater getting a new look.
First stop on the Backstage Express is in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra provides the spookiness as they perform the score for the 2017 film “Get Out.”
Next, learn about the Lemonade Selfie Museum which provides the perfect exhibits for Instagrammable photos.
Finally, get your hard hat ready as we go behind the scenes of the renovations at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is embracing Halloween’s spooky season in a screening of Jordan Peale’s “Get Out,” featuring a live performance of the film’s score.
“It’s a unique opportunity to put the movie with the orchestra,” said Jonathan Rush, who is conducting the performance. “The orchestra is known for playing music that has its own emotions, but now you get to put that experience with the experience of a movie, and I think that it heightens the experience.”
As a BSO associate conductor and artistic director of the organization’s youth orchestra, Rush is no stranger to the task of studying scores and leading large groups, but his first time conducting “Movie with the Orchestra,” presented unique challenges.
“If someone gets whacked in the head, I have to make sure there’s a nice big boom with it. So it takes a lot of time looking at the score … and making sure we also keep up with the film,” he said.
Prep for Rush included watching what are called “studio videos” with no audio.
“I have these flashes on my screen that let me know exactly where my beat needs to be, but also let me know what measure I’m in related to the music,” he explained.
The 27-year-old conductor also said when performing with films there’s less musical liberty, such as slowing down or speeding up certain areas of the score.
“The timing has to be strict, because everything is recorded,” Rush said. “It has to be precise and accurate.”
After having performed during films such as “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter,” Rush said, “Get Out,” exposes new audiences to classical music.
“You get a different experience, with movies you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have music published or written for orchestras and here we are showing that, yes, it does exist.”
In addition to a good time enjoying the orchestra and the thriller, Rush hopes “Get Out” with the BSO orchestra will show that the organization goes beyond performing typical classical works.
“After this performance I want people to be spooked, I want them to be fulfilled, but then I want them to be curious about what the BSO can do next or what the BSO is going to do next,” he said.
The Lemonade Selfie Museum on Franklin Street in Baltimore provides a space for networking, celebrating good memories and promoting positivity and self-empowerment, a welcome development after the isolation required during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[It] is essentially the museum of affirmations,” said director Alecia Brown. “Affirmations, for me as a mom and a woman, became a thing of reassuring the love for myself, outside of the love I have for the people around me. And so the museum is just a reminder for everyone [to] always love yourself first.”
The museum’s title takes a page from Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed sixth studio album, “Lemonade,” which in 2016 blessed the airwaves.
Featuring exhibits targeting all ages, Lemonade Selfie Museum guests are reminded of their dreams, their power and how far they’ve come.
There’s a room with caps and gowns and written on the wall is “Mama I made it. Another room contains an adult-friendly seesaw and features Hip Hop legend Notorious B.I.G’s lyrics “It was all a dream.” A pink staircase shows rapper Cardi B’s lyrics, “I climb to the top floor.” Guests are encouraged to get their inspiration and cute Instagram photos, by engaging with each exhibit and one another, while exploring their self expression.
“This is really creativity at its finest and through a lens that you can remember via your phone,” Brown said, adding that guests can also rent “old-style” Polaroid cameras. “Our museum is about creating memories, but memories of what your affirmations are. We even have an affirmation wall where people can write their affirmations, and it stays on there, as people come in and out of the museum.”
Other fun activations include a ‘90s nostalgia room with Game Boys and other old electronics, a studio set up so people can take photos as if they are recording songs and a “Checkers not Chess” theme.
The museum’s team intentionally left a few spaces blank, hoping to do more community partnerships with places such as Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and local high schools.
“We want people to be able to show their own displays … and honor the artists we have inside of Maryland,” Brown said.
Founded in 1854, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Baltimore, the oldest JCC in the country, continues to change as it follows the needs of the community it serves. The Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, founded in 1995 on the campus of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, also shifted, transforming from a classical music venue targeting Baltimore’s Jewish high society, to a creative gathering spot for the community at large.
The Gordon Center underwent seven-figures worth of renovations to adapt to the needs of their multipurpose space — fixing the rigging, sound and lighting. The center’s major renovations are concluding with the lobby.
“The lobby is a meeting space for lots of people of very different ethnic backgrounds, and we are very proud that the Gordon Center is representative of the entire community and county — both in the selection and curation of the shows that we have … and in the ticket purchasers,” said Sara Shalva, JCC chief arts officer.
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“The reality is when you go to a theater or a live music experience you’re in a dark room. It’s not a party. The party is when you go out in the lobby,” Shalva said, where there’s discussion and vibrancy and connection.
Peter Michaelson, the center’s senior director and general manager, said the renovation has moved the center “away from the ‘90s” and better fits what the lobby has become: a gathering space, rented out by groups and organizations.
There’s new paint, carpet and lighting, and more open space. The underused, oversized coat room will become a concession area with a bar and cabinets. The new video wall is the “capstone piece” of the lobby renovations, Sharva said, explaining that it will serve many purposes from livestreaming to presentation spaces for business meetings.
Along with the renovated interior, the center is also rolling out a new ticketing platform and website.
The Gordon Center hopes to welcome back patrons in the lobby and 550-seat theater in early 2023 if not sooner. To maintain their season plans and continue programming during renovations, the center will use other resources and spaces, including its 2,000 seat outdoor lot with a giant screen.