An original work by Tulsa composer Noam Faingold, designed specifically to be performed by a “socially distanced” orchestra, had its world premiere by members of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra at 10 a.m. Monday.
The finished product is a video featuring 45 Tulsa Symphony musicians, all of whom were recorded individually, and whose performances are blended together into an orchestral whole.
While a number of orchestras around the world have created such virtual performances, the Tulsa Symphony’s performance of Faingold’s work is one of the first original compositions written for this format.
Faingold, whose compositions include “The Defiant Poet: Elegy in Memory of Yevgeny Yevtushenko,” which the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College premiered in 2017, said he was inspired to create “We Persist” in response to the coronavirus pandemic during the first few weeks of being self-quarantined.
“It was one of those things that kind of happened in a flash,” Faingold said. “It took about a week to finish at the end of March. I wanted to make something that would resonate with people, that had those anthemic, feel-good qualities — a kind of musical ‘call to arms’ at a time when arts organizations everywhere are in an existential crisis.”
Faingold said the piece was written with extremely practical considerations as well.
“It had to be a piece for which every instrumental part could be learned and recorded quickly and then be able to be edited into a whole,” he said. “For me, the most amazing thing is that everything you see and hear in this finished piece was recorded on individual phones and iPads.”
Faingold said he approached the Tulsa Symphony about presenting the work, and the orchestra agreed to collaborate on the project. Underwriting for the premiere was provided by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and several other Tulsa-based donors.
Faingold oversaw the editing of the individual performances into the finished piece.
“I always have a kind of mental image of the final result of any project,” he said. “But the end result of this project really exceeded my best wishes for it. The musicians brought to it a depth and quality that I could never have predicted.”
But for Faingold, the true importance of “We Persist” is the message he said he hopes the piece, and the Tulsa Symphony’s performance of it, conveys.
“Artists have a fundamental role to play during this crisis,” he said. “The arts have always brought people together, and this piece is, I hope, an example of how people can come together to connect with our community in a way that satisfies our need to perform and enjoy the arts, while still keeping everyone as safe as possible.”