Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: David LaMarche

December 7, 2021 | By John Fleming

Conductor and Music Administrator
American Ballet Theatre

David LaMarche came up with the idea of giving hospital concerts remotely as a way for members of the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra to continue playing during the pandemic, when the company was  shut down. “You never know,” said LaMarche, a conductor and music administrator in his 21st season with ABT. “You do something out of necessity, and then all of a sudden it turns into a trademark.”

The program of livestreamed performances by the ABT Orchestra—“accompanied” by dancers on video—has come to be called ABT Heals. Twice a week in May, June, and July 2020, during some of the darkest days of the pandemic in New York City, orchestra members performed on Zoom from their homes for patients and staff at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital and other locations in the hospital’s system. The program was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Barry Webber, a Mount Sinai surgeon who died from COVID. He was married to Harriet Clark, a former dancer with the company who is on the faculty of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

Pieces from the company’s repertoire put orchestra members front and center: Principal cellist Jonathan Spitz played a big solo from the third act of La Bayadère. There was a lively performance by piano, percussion, and trombone of the famous “Sabre Dance” from the four-movement Aram Khachaturian ballet score Gayane, now the music for Of Love and Rage, a new work in the ABT repertory. Principal clarinet Jon Manasse and principal bassoon Marc Goldberg played chamber music with family members who also are musicians.

“We featured at least one dancer from the company every week,” LaMarche said. “We’d have a video clip of the dancer performing to the music we were playing, and the dancer would talk about his or her role in the ballet. The streaming went into all the patients’ rooms as well as the staff rooms and lounges where they have big TVs. Everyone said that the staff really enjoyed having a distraction from what their days were like, which at that point was pretty intense. Mount Sinai was overwhelmed with COVID patients.”

Mount Sinai and the ballet company plan to resume ABT Heals in February 2022.




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