Producers from the PBS series Live from Lincoln Center were looking for something special to do with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center directors David Finckel and Wu Han.
And they found it at the annual Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.
"When they showed me the slides from last year, I thought, 'Why wouldn't we go there?'" says Andrew Wilk, executive producer of Live from Lincoln Center. "It would be the same repertoire if we shot it in New York, in a brown box of a hall, as beautiful as it is; but to take it on location with the good people that travel and want to see it there, in Shaker Village, I think it's much more compelling."
So, for the ninth edition of the festival, Live from Lincoln Center will be on location to film one of the concerts and document the relationship between the venue and the artists that has been building since 2007.
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The festival was founded as a collaboration between Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts and Shaker Village, with Finckel and Wu Han serving as artistic directors from the beginning. After the 2010 event, the Norton Center bowed out, saying it needed to focus on on-campus events.
But Shaker Village had found a popular event in the festival, and it has continued and continued to grow.
"It's so fantastic that you start a project, you see the ingredients, and you guess that this is a very special place, a very spiritual place in the Shaker Village," Wu Han says. "As a musician, you get inspired, and you never know if the audience is going to come or not. You plan all these concerts, and it's so amazing to see how quickly people get it, the essence of the whole project.
"The community of the Shaker Village and the community of chamber music have a similar goal. So we work on it, and seven or eight years later, everybody got it and was so inspired, and when we talked about it with the people from Live at Lincoln Center, you could just see the sparkles in their eyes."
It was not necessarily the kind of attention Shaker Village was expecting.
"I think we had to get the smelling salts out," says Maynard Crossland, president and CEO of Shaker Village. "We were all just so astounded that something like this was going to happen."
Here's the thing: In its 40-year history, Live from Lincoln Center has never gone on location. All of its broadcasts have originated from the New York City campus that is home to organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera and venues such as Avery Fisher Hall.
"The prior mandate was that we only did shows live, and they had to originate from our campus," says Live from Lincoln Center executive producer Andrew Wilk, only the second person to hold that post. "And I just don't believe that in this day and age that applies.
"The Chamber Music Society tours anyway. They're fantastic ambassadors for us, Lincoln Center, and for chamber music in general. So for us, the choice was doing it on one of our 31 stages on the campus here, or taking it to a very unique and different setting in the Shaker Village and that old tobacco barn."
Of course, there is a huge difference between filming in Lincoln Center and Shaker Village's Meadow View Barn, which literally was an old tobacco barn until 2007, when it was renovated for the festival. One venue is outfitted for TV production, while the other is an old barn. That does present the TV crew challenges, but none that it cannot handle.
"We're pretty facile at making different locations work," Wilk says. "The biggest challenge for us is getting all our people there, and then there's the housing and feeding and getting the crew from one place to another. It's more that. We can put cameras anyplace."
Wilk's biggest concern has to do with the weather, and how the show will be shot.
The program will focus on Saturday evening's concert of American music, featuring Aaron Copland's iconic Appalachian Spring. The Lincoln Center crew will record it twice: once on Friday night, without an audience, to get angles and close ups that could not be achieved without disturbing the performance. Then they will shoot Saturday's performance with the audience. Wu Han, a veteran of three previous Live from Lincoln Center episodes, promises that although it is a six-camera production, "you won't even know they are there."
All involved have different hopes for the broadcast, which has not been given an air date, yet. Crossland hopes to expand awareness of Shaker Village with an audience that might not necessarily find it in travel shows and journalism. Wilk hopes to expand the scope of Live from Lincoln Center's programming, showing the broad reach of the center and its artists. Wu Han and Finckel have championed the event since its inception and are happy to see it get a larger audience.
"For us," she says, "it's incredibly exciting to be able to record this particular project."