Octet is a unique, immersive experience offering visitors the chance to get closer to orchestral music than ever before. The project, a collaboration with the Riverlights Music Festival, aims to recreate the feeling of being in an orchestra by situating the listener within a three-dimensional soundscape.

Octet is a proof of concept. Originally a response to the global pandemic, the result transcends this period. The idea is this: eight musicians record as a small, socially distanced ensemble. After a sound engineer channels each musician through a unique speaker, the system is set in a large circle giving listeners the freedom to explore each instrumentalist’s part, or stand centrally in the space and experience the musical blend. The project employed SBSO musicians during a time of severely limited work opportunities, and the high-fidelity speakers and immersive soundscape offer patrons a completely new perspective on music.

“Not only is this one solution to music-making during a pandemic, but we can take the system – which is small enough to be portable – into schools, libraries, hospitals, etc. It works as an amazing education and community engagement tool as well,” said Halle McGuire, project lead for the Symphony.

“When we were first discussing how Riverlights could partner with the SBSO to build what would become Octet, we were eager not only to collaborate with the team at the SBSO but also to create an innovative way to capture and share music within our beloved community. We’re excited by the unique application of music and technology we’ve been able to create together and look forward to Octet being shared with the greater community,” said Matt Teters, Riverlights Music Festival Executive Director.

This project was made possible through the collaboration of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors and the expertise of Riverlights Music Festival, along with the support of the South Bend Civic Theater and the South Bend Museum of Art. The South Bend Symphony Orchestra acknowledges generous operating support from national and local organizations, such as the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Octet features South Bend Symphony Orchestra Music Director Alastair Willis, Violin I – Mark Portolese, Jessica Bennett, and Azusa Tashiro; Violin II – Nicolas Orbovich and Rachel Brown; Viola – Rachel Goff; Cello – Lara Turner; Bass – Edward W. Randles. Musical selection include Rondeau from “Abdelazer” by Henry Purcell (1659-95), Andante Festivo by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), and Jig, Vivace, from “St. Paul’s Suite in C Major” by Gustav Holst (1874-1934). Octet was unveiled to public at the South Bend Museum of Art (SBMA) on November 6, 2020. Future plans for Octet are in process.