Last ‘Green Room’ concludes a Fresno Philharmonic virtual hit

Fresno Philharmonic music director and conductor Rei Hotoda welcomes three impressive guests on Wednesday’s edition of “The Green Room,” the orchestra’s popular live web series featured on Facebook and YouTube. This will be the sixth and final installment of the summer.

The guests are Caitlin McSherry, principal 2nd violinist; her husband, Drew Ford, newly appointed section cellist; and Isaac Pastor-Chermak, new assistant principal cellist.

Rei Hotoda, upper left, interviews Sukyung Chun, Heidi Franklin and Andy Buttler of the Fresno Philharmonic’s bass section.

I loved watching the “Green Room” series. I’ll never look at percussionist Tim Dent again without thinking of his concert-dress tails getting caught up in the wind machine — which sounds like a beast of an instrument — as he relates in one anecdote. Just hearing each musician’s voice and story makes them so much more accessible.

When we (finally) all get back into the Saroyan Theatre, I know I’ll feel closer to the orchestra.

I checked in with Hotoda to ask a few questions about this final episode. As a reminder, after the 8 p.m. Aug. 21 premiere, all six episodes are available on the orchestra’s Facebook and YouTube platforms.


Q: What is the most surprising thing you learned during the course of this series?

A: I was surprised at how adaptable everyone is in this time. They were all working so hard to perform any way possible. In addition, they are now also learning to be producers of their digital content, which is a whole new field. It’s great to see them working, and using this time wisely. They really enjoy working together in Fresno and the relationship they have with our audiences is very special to them. “It’s like a family” is what I heard a lot and I don’t think I knew that until now.

A sliver of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ adds a musically cosmopolitan atmosphere to Tim Dent’s Zoom background.

Q: What was your favorite musician Zoom background?

A: Tim Dent’s fireplace with the Puccini poster in the background.

Q: You give lots of interviews in your job. What was it like asking the questions?

A: It was different for me to be the interviewer and not on the other end. Since it was an informal chat, I felt I was really getting to know my players. We’re always working on stage together, and sadly, rarely do we have a moment to relax and catch up during our usual season. My schedule during our week of our concerts is so busy, running from rehearsals, to meetings to interviews, I never have a moment. So having this time to do these interviews has been rewarding for me.

Q: I noticed on Facebook that you and your husband were able to attend an outdoor concert. Where was that and who played?

A: It was our local ARTS IN THE PARK summer series in Morton, Illinois. Cousin Eddie is the name of the band. It’s a cover band that played ’60s and ’70s music.

LISTEN: Aug. 19 ‘Green Room’ guests Caitlyn McSherry and Drew Ford perform

Q: What was it like for you to go to a live performance after so many months of sheltering in place?

A: It was such a relief to hear live music. It’s not the kind of music what I would normally attend but I thoroughly enjoyed being outside and hearing live music. It was like being parched in a desert for such a long time and finally you see an oasis and you’re able to quench your thirst again before heading out into barren land.

Q: Anything you’d like to add?

A: When I was listening to our “Play On” series on KVPR in June and July, I often would be to the point of tears. Hearing our wonderful orchestra brought me back to every moment being on the podium working with our musicians. But my recall was rudely interrupted by thoughts of not being able to conduct now. It’s like a bad dream. I know I can do it but I cannot. I cannot wake up. I cannot work with my musicians at this time. I miss our audiences very much. I miss making live music with our orchestra. I miss doing what I do so I have to adapt and work as hard as I can to sustain our organization during this time. I want to connect to our community to let them know, we are still here. We are doing everything we can to come back. Please continue to support us.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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