While exploration of parks is still permitted under social distancing guidelines provided people stay six feet apart, some are not able to go outside and enjoy all that Boston’s parks have to offer.
But Andrew List, a Boston-based composer, has composed a three-movement chamber symphony—available online now—that honors the Emerald Necklace parks and Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision for them. Titled “The Emerald Necklace,” the symphony “celebrates the connection between nature and humanity that has occurred for thousands of years in Jamaica Plain,” according to program notes.
“We’re really thrilled that Andrew was interested in this project,” said Karen Mauney-Brodek, President of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. “Andrew came over and approached us in 2019,” Mauney-Brodek said, and asked the Conservancy for insight into composing a piece about the Emerald Necklace.
“We were really, really honored to get the chance to talk with a composer about the park,” she said.
The virtual world premiere of this piece can be listened to at emeraldnecklace.org. Right now, only MIDI recordings are available, which use virtual instruments to play the composition.
Evan Bradley, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said that the piece has not yet been recorded by a real chamber orchestra, but the Lowell Chamber Orchestra will be recording it under the direction of Orlando Cela.
The symphony is “centered in portions of the Necklace around Jamaica Plain,” Bradley said. The first movement, Compression, is based on the construction and creation of the Jamaicaway, the second movement, Release, depicts an evening at Jamaica Pond, and the third movement, Surprise, was inspired by artifacts found at Spring Brook Village, which is now a part of the Arnold Arboretum.
Bradley also said that the Conservancy hopes to debut the symphony in the Emerald Necklace “some time in the coming months when were are able to hold events in the parks.”
But for right now, the online recordings help provide some respite from everything going on surrounding the pandemic. “I love that there’s an experience of the park that can function on so many levels,” Mauney-Brodek said. “Some people might not be able to safely leave their homes, but they can experience the joy of the park in their homes at the moment no matter where they live.”
She also said that for those who are able to go out and spend some time in the parks (at a safe distance from one another), they should listen to the recordings while actually in the parks to get the complete experience.
“We’ve really been focusing on connecting people to their park,” Mauney-Brodek said. She also suggested playing the music on a smart phone and using the Conservancy’s mobile guided tour, which can be accessed at www.emeraldnecklace.tours.
“Why not walk through the biggest piece of art in Boston—the land of the Emerald Necklace?” Mauney-Brodek said. “We think it’s tremendous. There are 1100 acres of the Emerald Necklace to visit, and we encourage people to visit all of them this year. Perhaps find a corner you haven’t visited before.”
Bradley said that “offering this symphony is just one of the resources and connections to the parks the Conservancy is providing during this time. We want people either accessing the parks responsibly or people who cannot to have an opportunity to continue being connected.”
The Emerald Necklace Conservancy is also providing a number of resources, such as lessons, scavenger hunts, and a variety of activities for folks to take part in while social distancing, which can be found at emeraldnecklace.org/hereforyou.
“There is no cure for this disease right now,” Mauney-Brodek said, but what people can do is strengthen their immune systems and boost morale by connecting to nature. She said there is immense value in something as simple as looking at a photo of trees, looking out the window, or even listening to some birds.
“It’s important to keep people connected with their green spaces,” Bradley said. “That has been a lot of our focus over the past couple of weeks.”