Christina Wilhelm plays the piano at the Benderly-Kendall Opera House in Patagonia. The concert season has been cancelled due to the pandemic, but performances are being live streamed on the foundation’s Facebook page.  Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Like most of us, Christina Wilhelm is feeling the burdens of the COVID pandemic, but she has focused her energy on finding innovative ways to keep music being heard in Santa Cruz County even during the height of the current crisis.  

She and her husband, Fred, the founders of the Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts (SCFPA), have been bringing classical music to our local communities for the past 15 years. Part of the mission of the Foundation is also to provide opportunities for young classical musicians to perform and get paid for it. So how does that all work now in a time of social distancing and pandemic concerns? 

Wilhelm has devised a number of pandemic inspired variations to continue this mission. The concert series at the Benderly-Kendall Opera House in Patagonia has been cancelled, so instead there are now live streamed concerts available to the public. The performances can be seen on the SCFPA Facebook page. (See sidebar for concert schedule). They are also archived for future viewing. 

“Musicians all over the world are experiencing the isolating effects of this virus. Live performances, live audiences have become a not so distant memory,” a message on their website states. “At this time, SCFPA will continue to present their outstanding music online. We hope to make our social distancing feel less isolating and also help support the musical careers of so many talented artists. The concerts are free, but SCFPA gratefully accepts donations. As soon as it is safe to do so, outdoor concerts will begin.

Wilhelm has been a generous supporter of the Patagonia Regional Times. In past years, a ticket to an Opera House Concert has been part of the PRT’s thank you package for some members of the Press Core. This year, with no concerts scheduled, Wilhelm is offering instead an individualized “comprovisation.” Each donor will choose four notes that she will use to improvise a short classical piece on the piano. A video of her playing the piece will be sent to the donor.

The Santa Cruz Singers are also on hiatus because of the pandemic. The annual outdoor holiday sing along with the Patagonia community is cancelled. As a gift to the Santa Cruz Singers, Wilhelm will direct an outdoor “Holiday Hum in Four Parts” in December. While it is not open to public for safety reasons, it will give the singers a chance to use their pipes, if in a slightly muffled fashion.  

Wilhelm has also created “ZOOMBACHS,” combining classical music and free-form body movement. At noon every Thursday, four to eight people meet in the opera house courthouse, at least six feet apart, and listen to about 20 minutes of classical baroque music while moving their bodies to the beat. With a short intro and closing by Wilhelm, it offers a new way to experience music. A few more participants are welcome (maximum of 10 people for any session).

Wilhelm is also providing music for services at the Patagonia Methodist Church. Members of the church can come to worship in the sanctuary, or if they prefer, listen to the service at 10a.m. every Sunday on KPUP. Either way, the music for the service is recorded ahead of time. For most Sundays, Wilhelm records hymns on the piano which are then overdubbed by one of the church soloists.

Wilhelm credits her husband Fred and their 65-year marriage, for providing the security that allows her to persist and thrive. In her “spare time,” she is fighting off the pandemic blues by studying French, writing five-line poems called cinquains, and playing with their two new tuxedo cats adopted from the shelter. 

Comprovisations with Christina Wilhelm

YouTube video
YouTube video
Click Here for ZumBach at the Patagonia Opera House