LE PECQ, France – Look closely: The kettle drum player has a wooden spoon in one hand, a ladle in the other ... and doesn't even have his drums.
But, hey, cutting a few corners can be forgiven of an orchestra that managed the remarkable feat of performing “Bolero” while its musicians are scattered far and wide under coronavirus lockdowns.
Why? To send this message to music lovers: We are still here for you.
Like building a musical jigsaw puzzle, the National Orchestra of France used the magic of technology to weave together the sight and sounds of its musicians, who filmed themselves playing alone in their homes into a seamless, rousing whole.
Posting a video of their stitched-together performance on YouTube was a way of keeping in touch with each other and with audiences they sorely miss playing for.
“For us, the public is essential. Without the public, we don't really exist,” said Didier Benetti, the kettle drum player.
The video posted Sunday has quickly racked up hundreds of thousands of views.
The performance starts with three musicians: a cellist, a violinist and a percussionist with “Stay home” written on his red drum.
A flutist joins, haunting, bewitching, seemingly playing in his lounge.
The musical tension and power builds as more and more join, until they are an orchestra of 50.
Benetti rearranged French composer Maurice Ravel's work, chopping it down from the usual 15 minutes to a more manageable and social media-friendly length of just under four minutes.
The musicians got their scores by email. They also got an audio track to listen to through headphones as they played. That audio included a previous recording of the music and the ticking sound of a metronome, to help them keep time and stay in perfect unison despite being scattered to the winds.