A lot of things have gone digital in the past year, but for me anyway, symphony concerts haven’t been one of them. To some extent the live concert experience can’t be replaced; yet to some extent, the sound can be replicated with a decent system and speakers.
When I read the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra had made a big investment in the digital experience, I decided to check it out. Saint Louis had been on our list to visit eventually, so in some small sense an online concert would be partially checking off a box. The first concert was “free,” so there was little risk.
Sunday morning I went to the website and found the concert. It wasn’t entirely free since there didn’t seem to be any way to get through the checkout without filling in a donation. I complied and quickly received my virtual ticket and started streaming on the desktop.
As you might expect, the performance was great but the sound was wanting – there must be a way to watch this on the TV, which has much better sound. I went to type the URL into the TV browser (never fun and have rarely succeeded), signed in, and looked for the concert. After finally logging in, I was faced with a different navigation menu than on the desktop. The concert was nowhere to be found.
After further exploration and more time, I found a link to the concert. Even though I was logged in, the system didn’t recognize my tickets. Since watching concerts at home has been a goal for some time, we decided to order a Roku device and see if we could make it work that way.
Later that day, through the wonders of same-day delivery, Roku arrived. After some fiddling with that (which turns out to be a very nice product), we discovered Roku no longer supports web browsing. After some googling, I surmised it must be because you are supposed to use Airplay to send the concert from the Ipad or iPhone to the TV. Like most 21st century advancements, that may be convenient but it’s unlikely to sound really good. And we haven’t succeeded in getting Airplay to work yet.
By this point, I had given up and listened to the concert on the desktop. It was enjoyable, but probably not satisfying enough to do it again. I think adjustments to the navigation menu would help, but that’s unlikely to completely solve the problem. Can symphony concerts be made available through Roku and Apple TV? Can they be provided via YouTube Live or as Google Play downloads? All this investment in audio and cameras hits a wall if you need to watch/listen on your phone.
If anyone out there can offer suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I am glad the Saint Louis Symphony has made investments in digital production. I look forward to a time when concerts can be enjoyed at home, but not via phones, iPads and desktops that just don’t sound good. They may not fully substitute live performances, but the future is wide open for streamed classical concerts to supplement live performances. Even post-pandemic they would provide access to concerts outside of our local and give the really good symphonies the wider reach they deserve.
For now, technology stands in the way.