It’s difficult to bring music to the masses in any venue but a Zoom call, but the organizers of the Pocono Mountains Music Festival figure that during a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to connect people through music.
To that end, the organization will present a "Silent Symphony" on Saturday, Aug. 1 at Skytop Lodge, where attendees can spread out over thousands of acres while enjoying the same playlist, which will also be available to anyone who wants to follow along at home.
"You can wander the grounds, you can walk around the lake, you can sit in one spot and have a picnic on the back lawn if you want," said artistic director Scott Coulter.
Coulter was inspired by silent discos — events during which participants listen to music through headphones and, to outsiders, appear to be dancing to nothing.
Guests will have their individual experiences, at the same time as everyone collectively watches the sun set to the tune of a playlist that keeps the changing sky in mind.
Organizers are working on a way to broadcast video from Skytop — perhaps including drone shots — so that listeners at home can see the same evening sky.
Aside from the sunset, what ties the playlist together "is Scott and his creative vision," said Marianne Zychal, president of the festival’s board.
Coulter might say during a board meeting, "‘It’s going to be from Gershwin to Gaga,’" Zychal said. "You just know it’s going to be fun and great, because this guy just has a sense of what’s good and how to entertain people."
Coulter’s goal is to provide "a look at the history of music" — a big task for one evening, he knows, but one he’ll carry out by following Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with Walter Murphy’s disco track "A Fifth of Beethoven," for example.
The variety on the playlist will reflect what the music festival usually offers: "an eclectic mix of concerts each season, sort of something for everyone," Coulter said.
In a normal year, the festival runs at the same time as a performing arts camp for high school and junior high school students. This year, students will create two pieces that will be included on the playlist, Coulter said.
Coulter recommended downloading the playlist in advance. Email email@example.com to request it.
The event is free, as a way to give back, he said. "We so appreciate the people of the Poconos and how good they’ve been to us for the last 10 years."
Still, anyone who wants to support the festival and the camp for students can donate online at poconofest.org/make-a-donation/.
"It’s really important to us that our mission is carried out this summer, even more so than any other summer, because times are so tough," Zychal said.