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    Cornelia Vertenstein Gave Many Lessons Beyond the Piano

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }At HomeBake: Maximalist BrowniesListen: To Pink SweatsGrow: RosesUnwind: With Ambience VideosAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyTimes InsiderA Musical Life With Echoes That Will LastThe lessons that the piano teacher Cornelia Vertenstein taught her students also resounded with many others, including me.Cornelia Vertenstein talking remotely with the reporter John Branch last year for a feature that made the front page. During the pandemic, she continued giving piano lessons to children, using FaceTime. Credit…John BranchFeb. 20, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ETTimes Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.Cornelia Vertenstein, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, gave her last piano lesson at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 1. She was not feeling well, so she arranged a ride to the hospital.Pneumonia settled in, and family gathered, sensing the end of a quietly extraordinary life.She began giving lessons at age 14 in war-torn Romania. She did not stop for nearly 80 years. Toward the end, adapting to the pandemic, Ms. Vertenstein gave lessons on FaceTime from her home in Denver.As her condition worsened this month, she reflected on her life’s work.“If I die, don’t be sad,” she told her daughter, Mariana. “I led a productive life helping children.”Near her hospital bed hung a copy of a New York Times story about Ms. Vertenstein, staying connected to her students through technology, that was published last May. It was on the front page, with a large photograph of her sitting at her piano, sharply dressed, hands folded, looking at the camera.Ms. Vertenstein died Feb. 12. Count me among the mourners, because I wrote that story.I never met Ms. Vertenstein in person; our interviews took place on FaceTime and over the phone. But she left a lasting impression on me and countless others whom she never met, judging by how widely and quickly her story spread. It spawned an invitation to the “Today” show (she declined) and inspired a German telephone commercial, among other things.Her family teased her for being a celebrity, but she was uncomfortable with the attention.“She’d say, ‘I just want to teach,’” her daughter said.As with most stories that I have written, I remember the experience of reporting more than the words that were published. My mind sees Ms. Vertenstein’s smile. I still have it in my phone, a screengrab from one of our conversations.I remember having technical difficulties the first time I interviewed her, all on my end. I was late to connect on FaceTime. Fumbling with my phone and laptop, I simply called her. She forgave my blundering tardiness.I remember telling her during our last conversation that I would like to visit her the next time I was in Denver, my hometown. I still have family in Colorado, so I try to get there a few times a year. This was last spring. Surely the pandemic would ease, we thought. But I have not been to Denver since.I also remember the unusual circumstances for how that story came to me. At the end of March, the pandemic smothering lives, I was searching for fresh story angles. Maybe the exponential powers of social media could be put to good use.“I’m entertaining thoughts, a community brainstorm,” I wrote on Facebook. “Know something that the world should know about that hasn’t already been read and seen?”The first response came from Jacqui Jorgeson, whom I met in 2015 when her boyfriend (now husband), Kevin Jorgeson, climbed the Dawn Wall of Yosemite’s El Capitan with his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell.“Mind if I share?” she wrote. “I’ve got some awesomely weird friends.”Others shared, too. Ideas poured in. Most were the type that became familiar last spring, about quiet acts of heroism — sewing masks, volunteering for food banks, connecting with needy neighbors.In the end, I turned only one into a story.The suggestion stood out, about a Holocaust survivor in her 90s who lived alone and taught piano seven days a week. Unable to welcome her students into her home, as she had for decades, she took to conducting lessons using FaceTime. And now the spring recital was approaching.The note’s writer was Yvette Frampton, a Facebook acquaintance of Ms. Jorgeson. Her three children were among the dozens of Ms. Vertenstein’s students.Soon, I was like one of those students, virtually connected for scheduled meetings.Ms. Vertenstein coordinated our conversations around her teaching schedule and her iPad’s battery life — always a consideration, because there was no outlet near the piano. If she had an opening between 2 and 4, for example, she would ask if we could speak at 3, so that her device could charge on the counter for an hour first.Students considered Ms. Vertenstein a bit intimidating, at least at first, with her exacting standards and strong accent. (English was one of six languages she spoke.) She was the type of teacher that parents appreciate and that students may not, until they are older.With me, though, she was talkative and friendly. She spoke plainly of her life and its heartaches. She was patient with my probing questions. Her mind was sharp, her memory clear.All lives deserve more than a few paragraphs, but especially this one. I whittled it as sharply as I could to fit a newspaper word count.“The children do not know much of Ms. Vertenstein’s past — the yellow star she had to wear as a teenager during the war, the rocks thrown at her, the fist of fascism replaced by the slogging brutality of communism,” I wrote last year.It was mere context for her piano lessons.“It’s very painful to talk about,” Ms. Vertenstein told me. “Besides this, why should I tell those kids such sad stories?”There is no way to know how many children entered her house over the decades, learning scales or rehearsing Bach minuets and Haydn sonatas before exiting with a hug and a sticker and, perhaps, a life lesson not fully appreciated until later.She was sure not going to let social-distancing protocols get in the way of one-on-one piano lessons. Ms. Frampton and others helped teach Ms. Vertenstein to use FaceTime. The recitals, performed on Zoom from dozens of living rooms before a matrix of family members, were trickier. But they worked.Last May, Ms. Vertenstein hoped that she could soon welcome her students back into her home. That never happened.Her last student, it turns out, was Maggie Frampton, 14, one of those featured in the online recital last May. It was early in the morning two Mondays ago, on FaceTime before school. Maggie told her mother afterward that Ms. Vertenstein was not feeling well. (Ms. Vertenstein’s family said she did not have Covid-19 and had recently received the first dose of vaccine.)Now the Frampton children are among the 30 current students of Ms. Vertenstein in search of a new teacher.“Some naïve part of me thought she would live forever,” Yvette Frampton said.Also unclear is what will become of Ms. Vertenstein’s three pianos, including the Chickering & Sons that she and her husband bought for $600 in 1965, two years after landing in the United States, and the two grand pianos reserved mostly for older students or those rehearsing concerts or recitals.On Tuesday, on a cold and blustery Colorado afternoon, family and a few friends attended a graveside funeral as others watched online. The rabbi quoted Plato’s line about music giving “soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination” — the same line that Ms. Vertenstein chose for the program for last spring’s recital.Minutes before her small, plain coffin was lowered into the earth, notes from former students were read. One recalled how Ms. Vertenstein never liked the word “practice.”You do not practice, she would say. You make music.She sprinkled lessons everywhere.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    For My Next Trick … Opening a New Musical in Tokyo in a Pandemic

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }At HomeMake: BirriaExplore: ‘Bridgerton’ StyleParent: With ImprovRead: Joyce Carol OatesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyFor My Next Trick … Opening a New Musical in Tokyo in a PandemicOur writer’s adaptation of “The Illusionist” was slated for a tryout run. Lockdown, a tragic death, cancer and quarantine got in the way, but didn’t stop the show.Peter Duchan, who wrote the book for “The Illusionist,” watches its Tokyo debut from 7,000 miles away.Credit…via Peter DuchanFeb. 17, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETAs I settled into my seat before takeoff, I felt, improbably, a sense of accomplishment. That I’d made it onto this (nearly empty) plane felt like a big deal. That I was permitted to travel abroad, a miracle. The road to J.F.K., to this flight, to my seat had already been long and steep.It began in 2016, when, over Skype, the London-based composer-lyricist Michael Bruce and I wrote the first draft of our musical adaptation of the 2006 film “The Illusionist,” itself based on a short story by Steven Millhauser. It wound past second, third and fourth drafts, past two developmental workshops.We were working toward a world premiere in Tokyo in late 2020. Our director, Thom Southerland, had a fruitful history with Umeda Arts Theater, one of Japan’s larger producing entities. They were itching to develop a new musical, and “The Illusionist” would provide that opportunity. For the creative team, it was a chance to not only further refine the writing but also to incorporate a crucial, as yet unrehearsed element: the illusions. (The protagonist is a magician, after all.)Enter the coronavirus. Theaters in America and the United Kingdom shut down. I anxiously tracked the situation in Japan, distraught when they stopped admitting foreign visitors, buoyed to see them make it through the first wave with the virus largely under control. Theaters, crucially, were open, so our production could go ahead as planned, even if the creative team was barred from entering the country.No matter what, I wanted the production to happen. I’d already had two 2020 regional productions canceled: one, a musical I’d written; the other, a show on which I was consulting. Like so many others in my sidelined industry, I was desperate for any crumb of professional validation.Umeda had announced that the December debut would star Haruma Miura as Eisenheim, an illusionist in fin de siècle Vienna who reunites with his first love, now engaged to a Hapsburg prince, and, in trying to win her back, upends the fragile, carefully constructed social order. (Edward Norton played the role in the movie.)Miura, who headlined Tokyo’s “Kinky Boots,” had participated in a workshop of Yojiro Ichikawa’s Japanese translation of our show in 2019. We knew his Eisenheim, intense and charismatic, would be a strong anchor for the piece. The production — and his involvement — seemed to be generating some buzz.On July 18, I woke to an email relaying the news: Miura, at 30 years old, was dead. Japanese media reported he had hanged himself. The entire team was stunned and saddened, unsure how or if we would proceed.In the past, I’d been suspicious of “the show must go on” — it seemed designed to coerce workers into tolerating unacceptable labor practices — but now I heard an earnest yearning in the phrase. Theater is, by nature, communal. Surely it would be more healing for all involved to gather and perform the show. What would be gained by giving up?Then from our producers came a barrage of questions. Would I be willing to quarantine in Tokyo? How quickly could I get myself to the Japanese consulate? (Deus ex machina: Japan began allowing business travelers to apply for visas!) Could we cut the intermission? (Socially distanced restroom use would take too long.) Were we OK with a shift in the schedule? Shortening the run?Yes, yes to all of it, yes to anything. We just had to do the show.Duchan flew to Tokyo for rehearsals, only to be kept in quarantine until it made best sense to head back to the United States, where he quarantined again.Credit…via Peter DuchanRecasting the main character was a thorny business so we’d decided to keep it in the family, inviting Naoto Kaiho, originally set to play the prince, to step into the role of Eisenheim.And then, another shoe. Thom was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He had confidence in a full recovery, but he would have to remain in London for treatment. He wasn’t going to be able to make the trip to Japan. Michael and I were worried about him. “Prioritize your health,” we implored.But Thom was adamant his illness need not derail the show. Our producers once again scrambled and came up with a plan. Thom would direct remotely, via live feed. A solution that might have seemed unreliable, even unthinkable, before the pandemic was now the only way we could carry on.With the necessary travel permissions, I’d made it to J.F.K., to this flight, to my seat. I snapped a selfie. Everything that could go wrong seemed already to have gone wrong. I felt palpable relief.At every juncture from here, there would be safeguards and precautions. I tested before flying (nasal swab at an overpriced boutique medical practice) and upon landing at Haneda Airport (spit test in a booth outfitted with photos of pickled plums to encourage salivation). I would join rehearsals after two weeks in quarantine, but even then, I wouldn’t be engaging much with Tokyo: We’d all agreed to avoid indoor dining, bars, museums — any and all crowds.The safety measures in the rehearsal studio were extensive. Upon arriving each day, participants zipped their personal belongings into assigned garment bags, including the face masks worn during their commutes. The production provided a new mask each day, to be worn throughout rehearsal. No eating was permitted in the room. No sharing phone chargers. The schedule included regular “airing breaks.”During my first week of quarantine in a Tokyo hotel, I attended rehearsals via Zoom. The choreographer, Ste Clough, was already in the studio, but the rest of the foreign creative team remained sequestered, back-channeling over WhatsApp. Over the course of the week, we cut 15 minutes from the show, replaced a song and juggled notes coming from multiple directions. We staged the first half of our intermission-less musical.Then, the morning of my eighth day in quarantine, I got a call from a producer. One of the actors was experiencing symptoms and had tested positive for Covid-19. Rehearsals were on hold. Those exposed — 19 cast members; various producers, stage managers and production assistants who were in the room every day; as well as those who had merely stopped by, including our orchestrator and a vocal coach — were being tested that afternoon.The more optimistic among us shared the hope that the results would validate the precautions taken, allowing work to start again in two weeks, after everyone in close contact with the afflicted actor had waited out their quarantine period.The next afternoon, at a Zoom production meeting, our lead producer relayed the results. Seven positives. Five onstage, two off. Our efforts may have limited, but certainly didn’t prevent, the virus’s spread. It was becoming increasingly difficult to adapt to the constantly changing circumstances. “Sometimes,” she said, “the bravest thing to do is walk away.”If we were to resume, I recognized, it would have to be with the fewest possible people in the studio. And, I had to admit, I wasn’t sure I was going to feel safe being one of them. As the apparatus for rehearsing remotely was already in place, I decided to return to New York.Watching a rehearsal for “The Illusionist” from a Tokyo hotel room.Credit…via Peter DuchanI went straight from J.F.K. into yet another quarantine. I woke at 5 a.m. for daily production meetings that stretched on for hours as our hardworking interpreters made sure every comment was understood in two languages. The Umeda team outlined the path forward. They didn’t feel comfortable asking folks to rehearse in a cramped studio, but our venue, the vast Nissay Theater, with its 1,300 seats and substantial cubic space, would provide a less risky environment.We would have to shorten the rehearsal period. We would have to simplify the staging to limit physical contact between actors. We wouldn’t have time to implement the tricks, forcing us to refocus those scenes on the reaction to magic rather than on the magic itself.We would have to inform the audience they’d be seeing a concert staging and offer refunds to the disgruntled and disappointed.Yes, yes to all of it. We just had to do the show.We made it through a few days of virtual rehearsal before Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a state of emergency for Tokyo. We were canceled. Our choreographer returned to London. But the state of emergency didn’t actually order theaters to close. If other shows remained open, why not ours? Uncanceled.Thankfully, none of the positive cases in our company seemed to be severe, but, as our restart date approached, some weren’t yet healthy enough to work. Would we be willing to delay the opening, further shortening the run? Could we simplify the already streamlined staging?Again, yes. But why? Why were we fighting so hard? Was it because our story, exploring the fragility of truth, felt so relevant to the moment we were living? Or was it because, having overcome so many challenges already, it felt illogical to cower in the face of any new obstacle?Or were we driven by the need, however selfish, to have something, anything, to show for our efforts? The briefest of runs at 50 percent capacity — how helpful could it be really? No matter what happened in Tokyo, my British collaborators and I — and the show itself — would return to a numbing holding pattern, waiting for theaters in our respective countries to reopen. All we would gain by doing the show would be having done the show. Was that reason enough?After a tragic death, Naoto Kaiho stepped up into the lead role of Eisenheim in “The Illusionist.”Credit…Chisato OkaOne month to the day after I left Tokyo, “The Illusionist” resumed in-person rehearsals. Of the creative team, only Michael was at the Nissay Theater. Thom and Ste, both in London, rose at 4 a.m. for work. In the United States, I rehearsed most nights until about 3 a.m. The show came together quickly. It had to.The process felt distant, but the thrills were the sort well known to anyone who works in musical theater: hearing the score animated by a full orchestra after years of it played on one piano; seeing Ayako Maeda’s sumptuous, intricate costumes soak up the stage light and sharpen the actors’ characterizations; watching the talented and brooding Kaiho sink his teeth into the role of Eisenheim.I watched the Jan. 27 opening performance on our trusty live feed. During curtain call, the cast wept with joy and relief. Afterward a producer walked her phone to each dressing room so those of us celebrating remotely could shower the cast with congratulations.Filtered through screens, I could still feel the merry, frenetic backstage energy. Nearly 7,000 miles away, I was able experience the elation of opening night. I was making theater again. We were doing the show.Two days later, after playing its five scheduled performances, “The Illusionist” closed. Now we wait.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Opera Singers Help Covid-19 Patients Learn to Breathe Again

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesVaccine RolloutSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyOpera Singers Help Covid-19 Patients Learn to Breathe AgainA six-week program developed by the English National Opera and a London hospital offers customized vocal lessons to aid coronavirus recovery.The singing coach Suzi Zumpe, top left, leading a rehabilitation program for Covid-19 patients that she runs with the English National Opera. Credit…ENO Breathe, via English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS TrustFeb. 16, 2021LONDON — On a recent afternoon, the singing coach Suzi Zumpe was running through a warm-up with a student. First, she straightened her spine and broadened her chest, and embarked on a series of breath exercises, expelling short, sharp bursts of air. Then she brought her voice into action, producing a resonant hum that started high in a near-squeal, before sinking low and cycling up again. Finally, she stuck her tongue out, as if in disgust: a workout for the facial muscles.The student, Wayne Cameron, repeated everything point by point. “Good, Wayne, good,” Zumpe said approvingly. “But I think you can give me even more tongue in that last bit.”Though the class was being conducted via Zoom, it resembled those Zumpe usually leads at the Royal Academy of Music, or Garsington Opera, where she trains young singers.But Cameron, 56, isn’t a singer; he manages warehouse logistics for an office supplies company. The session had been prescribed by doctors as part of his recovery plan after a pummeling experience with Covid-19 last March.Called E.N.O. Breathe and developed by the English National Opera in collaboration with a London hospital, the six-week program offers patients customized vocal lessons: clinically proven recovery exercises, but reworked by professional singing tutors and delivered online.While few cultural organizations have escaped the fallout of the pandemic, opera companies been hit especially hard. In Britain, many have been unable to perform in front of live audiences for almost a year. While some theaters and concert venues managed to reopen last fall for socially distanced shows between lockdowns, many opera producers have simply gone dark.But the English National Opera, one of Britain’s two leading companies, has been trying to redirect its energies. Early on, its education team ramped up its activities, and the wardrobe department made protective equipment for hospitals during an initial nationwide shortage. Last September, the company offered a “drive-in opera experience,” featuring an abridged performance of Puccini’s “La Bohème” broadcast over large screens in a London park. That same month, it started trialing the medical program.Jenny Mollica, who runs the the English National Opera’s outreach programs, contacted a respiratory specialist to suggest that the company could help out.Credit…Karla Gowlett, via English National Opera“The program really does help,” said Wayne Cameron. “Physically, mentally, in terms of anxiety.”Credit….In a video interview, Jenny Mollica, who runs the English National Opera’s outreach work, explained that the idea had developed last summer, when “long Covid” cases started emerging: people who have recovered from the acute phase of the disease, but still suffer effects including chest pain, fatigue, brain fog and breathlessness.“Opera is rooted in breath,” Mollica said. “That’s our expertise. I thought, ‘Maybe E.N.O. has something to offer.’”Tentatively, she contacted Dr. Sarah Elkin, a respiratory specialist at one of the country’s biggest public hospital networks, Imperial College N.H.S. Trust. It turned out that Elkin and her team had been racking their brains, too, about how to treat these patients long-term.“With breathlessness, it can be really hard,” Elkin explained in an interview, noting how few treatments for Covid exist, and how poorly understood the illness’s aftereffects still were. “Once you’ve gone through the possibilities with drug treatments, you feel you don’t have a lot to give people.”Elkin used to sing jazz herself; she felt that vocal training might help. “Why not?” she said.Twelve patients were initially recruited. After a one-on-one consultation with a vocal specialist to discuss their experience of Covid-19, they took part in weekly group sessions, conducted online. Zumpe started with basics such as posture and breath control before guiding participants through short bursts of humming and singing, trying them out in the class and encouraging them to practice at home.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    The Music Lost to Coronavirus, Part 2

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyPopcastSubscribe:Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsThe Music Lost to Coronavirus, Part 2Remembering Fred the Godson, Adam Schlesinger and Cristina.Hosted by Jon Caramanica. Produced by Pedro Rosado.More episodes ofPopcastFebruary 5, 2021The Music Lost to Coronavirus, Part 2January 31, 2021Olivia Rodrigo and ‘Drivers License’ Aren’t Going AnywhereJanuary 19, 2021Inside the Bull Market for Songwriting RightsJanuary 7, 2021How Zev Love X Became MF DoomDecember 23, 20202020 Popcast Listener Mailbag: Taylor, Dua, MGK and MoreDecember 15, 2020Taylor Swift’s ‘Evermore’: Let’s DiscussDecember 9, 2020The Best Albums of 2020? Let’s DiscussNovember 29, 2020Saweetie, City Girls and the Female Rapper RenaissanceNovember 18, 2020Who Will Control Britney Spears’s Future?November 10, 2020Ariana Grande, a Pop Star for the Post-Pop Star AgeOctober 22, 2020  •  More

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    Behind the Scenes at the Super Bowl Halftime Show

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Super Bowl 2021N.F.L.’s Most Challenging YearGame HighlightsThe CommercialsHalftime ShowWhat We LearnedAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBehind the Weeknd’s Halftime Show: Nasal Swabs and Backup PlansPutting on a Super Bowl halftime show is always a mammoth undertaking. The pandemic introduces many more logistical puzzles.The Weeknd is headlining this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, which has had to adapt to the challenges of mounting a live performance during a pandemic.Credit…Isaac Brekken/Getty ImagesFeb. 5, 2021[Follow the Super Bowl live between the Chiefs and Buccaneers.]When the Weeknd headlines the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, the stage will be in the stands, not on the field, to simplify the transition from game to performance. In the days leading up to the event, workers have visited a tent outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., to receive nasal swabs for Covid-19 tests. And though a smaller crew is putting on the show this year, the bathroom trailers have been going through three times as much water as usual — because of all that hand-washing.Amid a global pandemic, the gargantuan logistical undertaking that is the halftime show has gotten even more complicated.In a typical year, a massive stage is rolled out in pieces onto the football field, sound and lighting equipment is swiftly set up by hundreds of stagehands working shoulder to shoulder, and fans stream onto the turf to watch the extravaganza. This year, there is a cap on how many people can participate in the production, dense crowds of cheering fans are out of the question. And only about 1,050 people are expected to work to put on the show, a fraction of the work force in most years.The pandemic has halted live performances in much of the country, and many televised spectacles have resorted to pretaped segments to ensure the safety of performers and audiences. The halftime show’s production team, however, was intent on mounting a live performance in the stadium that they hoped would wow television audiences. To fulfill that dream, they would need contingency plans, thousands of KN95 masks and a willingness to break from decades of halftime-show tradition.“It’s going to be a different looking show, but it’s still going to be a live show,” said Jana Fleishman, an executive vice president at Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by Jay-Z that was tapped by the N.F.L. in 2019 to create performances for marquee games like the Super Bowl. “It’s a whole new way of doing everything.”Last year’s halftime show, starring Jennifer Lopez, above, and Shakira, felt like an exultant, glittery party.Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesOne of the first logistical puzzles was figuring out how to pick staff members up from the airport and transport them to and from the hotel, said Dave Meyers, the show’s executive in charge of production and the chief operating officer at Diversified Production Services, an event production company based in New Jersey that is working on the halftime show.“Usually you pack everyone into a van, throw the bags into the back, everyone is sitting on each other’s laps,” Meyers said. “That can’t happen.”Instead, they rented more than 300 cars to transport everyone safely.Many of the company’s workers have been in Tampa for weeks, operating out of what they call a “compound” outside of Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The compound includes 50-foot-long office trailers, which used to fit about 20 employees each but now are limited to six. There are socially distant dining tents where people eat prepackaged food, and a signal for which tables have been sanitized: the ones with chairs tilted against them.Outside the perimeter of the event, there is a tent where halftime-show workers have been getting Covid-19 tests. Staff members have been getting tested every 48 hours, but now that game day is close, key employees, including those who are in proximity to the performers, are getting tested every day, Meyers said. Each day, workers fill out a health screening on their smartphones, and if they’re cleared, they get a color-coded wristband, with a new color each day so no one can wear yesterday’s undetected.It is unclear if this year’s show will mimic the high-budget elements of years past, like Katy Perry riding an animatronic lion.Credit…Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesEach time workers enter the stadium or a new area of the grounds, they scan a credential that hangs from around their necks so that in the event that someone tests positive for Covid-19 or needs to go into quarantine, the N.F.L. will know who else was in their vicinity. And there are contingency plans if workers have to quarantine: crucial employees, including Meyers, have understudies who stand ready to take their places.All of those measures are taken so that the Weeknd can step out onstage Sunday for a 12-minute act that aims to rival years past, when the country was not in the midst of a global health crisis.“Our biggest challenge is to make this show look like it’s not affected by Covid,” Meyers said.The challenge was apparent on Thursday at a news conference about the halftime show. When the Weeknd strode to the microphone, he took in the room and noted, “It’s kind of empty.” His words were perhaps a preview of how the stadium might look to people watching from home. (About 25,000 fans will be present — a little more than a third of its capacity — and they will be joined by thousands of cardboard cutouts.)During the 2017 halftime show, Lady Gaga clasped fans’ hands and embraced one of them, but the Weeknd is performing in an age of social distancing.Credit…Dave Clements/Sipa, via Associated PressBut the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), a 30-year-old Canadian pop star who has hits including “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Starboy,” is known for his theatrical flair. His work often has a brooding feel, an avant-garde edge, and even some blood and gore (he promised he would keep the halftime show “PG”).This will be the second Super Bowl halftime show produced in part by Jay-Z and Roc Nation, who were recruited by the N.F.L. at a time when performers were refusing to work with the league, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.The N.F.L. and Roc Nation are keeping quiet about the details of the program to build anticipation, so it is unclear whether it will have the usual big-budget effects of halftime shows past, which have featured Jennifer Lopez dancing on a giant revolving pole, Katy Perry riding an animatronic lion and Diana Ross memorably exiting by helicopter.What is clear is that there is unlikely to be anything like the intimate moment Lady Gaga had with a few of her fans during her 2017 performance, when she clasped their hands and embraced one of them before going back onstage for “Bad Romance.” The Weeknd is taking the stage in a much more distanced world.Ken Belson contributed reporting.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Sandie Crisp, ‘Goddess Bunny’ of the Underground Scene, Dies at 61

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThose We’ve LostSandie Crisp, ‘Goddess Bunny’ of the Underground Scene, Dies at 61She became a muse among the Hollywood avant-garde, appearing in movies, music videos and photographs. She died of Covid-19.Sandie Crisp in 2016. She appeared in music videos, movies and stage shows.Credit…Chuck GrantFeb. 4, 2021Updated 6:20 p.m. ETThis obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.Sandie Crisp, a transgender actress and model who, under her stage name the Goddess Bunny, served as a muse to generations of artists, gay punks and other denizens of the West Hollywood avant-garde, died on Jan. 27 at a hospital in Los Angeles. She was 61.Her death was confirmed by Mitchell Sunderland-Jackson, a friend. The cause was Covid-19, he said.For decades, Ms. Crisp was a familiar presence on the sidewalks of Santa Monica Boulevard and in the hustler bars that once lined it, where she dressed like a grungy diva and lip-synced songs by Donny Osmond, Judy Garland and Selena.In the 1980s and ’90s, she became a popular subject for artists who frequented that scene as well as their collaborator. Directors cast her in underground movies, and she appeared in music videos by Dr. Dre and Billy Talent. A nude photograph of her sits in the permanent collection of the Louvre.Her aesthetic, which blended the Hollywood noir of David Lynch with the punk offensiveness of GG Allin and Lydia Lunch, knew few boundaries. For one performance she dressed as Eva Braun alongside a man dressed as Hitler. An audience member leapt to his feet and punched her in the face.“Being able to shock and offend as a way of avoiding co-option by corporate capitalism — she was the muse for people pursuing that sensibility,” said the Canadian filmmaker Bruce La Bruce, the director, most recently, of “Saint-Narcisse” (2020).Ms. Crisp was equally renowned among drag performers, especially those of a rawer sensibility.“If you’re an actual drag queen, you know about the Goddess Bunny,” said Simone Moss, the founder of Bushwig, an annual drag conclave that started in New York and gave Ms. Crisp a lifetime achievement award in 2017. “She’s a part of drag history as much as Divine,” she said, referring to the actress made famous by John Waters in films like “Pink Flamingos.”Sandie Crisp was born on Jan. 13, 1960, in Los Angeles to John Wesley Baima, a lawyer, and Betty Joann (Sherrod) Baima, a secretary.Their child contracted polio, causing limited use of her arms and legs. Doctors prescribed a variety of surgeries and medical devices — Milwaukee braces, Harrington rods — but they caused only further physical damage. She used a wheelchair to get around.After the Baimas divorced, Sandie spent several years in foster homes around Los Angeles, at times subjected to abuse by doctors and at least one foster parent, according to Sandie’s account and that of her half brother, Derryl Dale Piper II.She returned to live with her mother when she was 11, and by 14 she was beginning to present herself as a woman, Mr. Piper said, a turn that brought conflict with their mother, who was deeply religious.Ms. Crisp left home after high school, moving to West Hollywood and joining a small community of punks, artists, homeless teens and hustlers. She made her mark almost immediately. Foulmouthed and dressed in sequined gowns that she often sewed herself, she insisted on being treated like a celebrity. Her penchant for telling wild tales about herself — like how she had appeared in off-Broadway musicals and dated celebrities — only made her more intriguing to her peers.Sandie Crisp was equally renowned among drag performers, especially those who lean toward a raw, edgy sensibility.Credit…Gibson Fox“She was such a visually extreme person,” said the photographer Rick Castro, one of many artists who hired Ms. Crisp to appear in their work in the 1980s and ’90s. “The way she carried herself, like she was a movie star, like old-school Hollywood royalty — she didn’t carry herself like someone who should be ashamed,” he said in an interview.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Breaks With Tradition

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThe Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Breaks With TraditionThis time, the field won’t be swarming with fans crowding the stage. In fact, the stage won’t be on the field at all, but in the stands.The Weeknd in concert. He will be headlining the Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa on Sunday.Credit…Hayoung Jeon/EPA, via ShutterstockJulia Jacobs and Feb. 4, 2021, 3:09 p.m. ETWhether it stars Al Hirt, Michael Jackson or Beyoncé, the Super Bowl halftime show has always taken center stage on the field.But for the first time in the 55-year history of the game, the Weeknd, who is headlining this Sunday in Tampa, Fla., will perform on a stage set up in the stands in keeping with strict coronavirus protocols intended to limit contact with the players and coaches; his act may, however, include a brief interlude on the field.In a typical year, a massive stage is rolled onto the field and hundreds of fans pour out to surround it; this year only about 1,050 people are expected to work to put on the show, compared with 2,000 to 3,000 most years. Performers and crew members will receive Covid-19 tests before rehearsals and before the performance.When he strode to the microphone Thursday at a news conference, the Weeknd took in the room and noted, “It’s kind of empty.” His words were perhaps a preview of how the stadium might look to people watching from home. (About 25,000 fans will be in the stadium — less than half its 65,000-person capacity — joined by thousands of two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of fans provided by the N.F.L.)The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), is a 30-year-old Canadian pop star known for hits including “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Starboy.” His concerts often have a brooding feel and a dark, avant-garde edge. (The music video for his latest hit, “Blinding Lights,” opens with the Weeknd laughing maniacally, his face covered in blood.) He said that his halftime show would incorporate some of his trademark artistic themes but that he plans to be “respectful to the viewers at home.”“The story will continue,” he said, “but definitely we’ll keep it PG for the families.”This will be the second Super Bowl halftime show produced in part by Jay-Z and his entertainment company, Roc Nation, who were recruited by the N.F.L. in 2019. At the time, performers were refusing to work with the league, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    In the Ozarks, the Pandemic Threatens a Fragile Musical Tradition

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyIn the Ozarks, the Pandemic Threatens a Fragile Musical TraditionThe older fiddlers and rhythm guitar players don’t rely on sheet music, so their weekly jam sessions — now on hiatus — are critical to passing their technique to the next generation.Gordon McCann in October quit making the hourlong trek from his home in Springfield, Mo., to the McClurg jam because he got “spooked” by the virus.Credit…Terra Fondriest for The New York TimesFeb. 3, 2021Updated 11:00 a.m. ET‘Old Indiana,’ from the album ‘The Way I Heard It’The tune was popular in the 1930s and ’40s in the southern Missouri Ozarks.McCLURG, Mo. — In an abandoned general store along a nearly deserted country road, Alvie Dooms, 90, and Gordon McCann, 89, played rhythm guitar. Nearly a dozen more musicians, many of them also older adults, joined in on fiddle, mandolin, banjo and upright bass. Their tunes had names like “Last Train Home,” “Pig Ankle Rag” and “Arkansas Traveler.”The old-time dance music — merry and sweet, or slower and wistful — evoked the lively jigs and reels of the Scots-Irish pioneers who settled in these rugged hills generations ago. A precursor to bluegrass, their sound was unique to this particular corner of Missouri.The McClurg jam, as the Monday night music and potluck fest was known, endured for decades, the last gathering of its kind in the rural Ozarks. But the coronavirus pandemic has silenced the instruments, at least temporarily. And the suspension has led to worry: What will become of this singular musical tradition?The McClurg jam, as the Monday night music and potluck fest was known, endured for decades, the last gathering of its kind in the rural Ozarks.Credit…Terra Fondriest for The New York TimesAlvie Dooms holds a rare fiddle at his home in rural Ava, Mo. A longtime member of the McClurg jam, Mr. Dooms owns hundreds of instruments that he fixes and collects.Credit…Terra Fondriest for The New York Times“Because it’s ear music, it’s a little bit fragile,” said Howard Marshall, 76, a retired professor at the University of Missouri and a fiddler himself. “I’m not playing it exactly like the next chap will play it.”In other words, the McClurg old-time fiddlers and banjo players have mostly learned the tunes by listening to one another rather than reading from sheet music, passing the tradition from one generation to the next. Many of the musicians who know the songs best are growing old and, for now at least, have been sidelined.“I’m one of the younger ones, and I’m 74,” said Steve Assenmacher, a bass player who lives just up the hill from the McClurg Store and acts as its caretaker.In normal years, the store, still crammed with faded boxes of bras and women’s pumps left from a generation ago when the business shut down, is revived once a week for the jam. Musicians stream into McClurg, about 240 miles southwest of St. Louis, on Monday nights, performing for friends and spouses. They play sitting in a circle, stealing glances at Mr. Dooms’s callused fingers to gauge where his rhythm guitar might go next.Behind them, wives of the mostly male musicians and a handful of regulars snack on pot roast, quiche and pies. Occasionally, someone rises to their feet to dance.Sometimes called “mountain music,” the old-time genre has survived hundreds of years because of gatherings like the one in McClurg. Here, sheet music is referred to as “chicken scratches,” and formally trained musicians are at grave risk of being reviewed as “stiff.” Children with an aptitude for music have, for generations, picked up a family instrument and played along, rather than taking formal lessons.“I’m one of the younger ones, and I’m 74,” said Steve Assenmacher, a bass player who lives just up the hill from the McClurg Store and acts as its caretaker.Credit…Terra Fondriest for The New York TimesMcClurg, a crossroads more than a town, is home to a particular strain of old-time music that is not played in precisely the same way anywhere else.Credit…Terra Fondriest for The New York TimesMr. Dooms can still recall shivering in the back of a wagon as a boy, as his parents drove through the Ozark hills after dance parties, a fiddler’s music reverberating through his head to the rhythm of a horse’s feet striking dirt.“That was back when they had dances in people’s houses,” Mr. Dooms said. “You know, they’d move the furniture all out in a couple of rooms. The musician would sit in the doorway between them and they could dance in both rooms.”The Coronavirus Outbreak More