On a recent Tuesday evening, the seats at Symphony Hall are empty but the stage is full from one end to the next. Rows of college-age singers fan out amid numerous string and horn players and other musicians. Conductor Keith Lockhart is at the podium, singer-songwriter Sarah Walk is at the piano, and six cameras rove slowly, including one on a crane, capturing the whole performance for an upcoming video.
It’s a grand moment for a series that started with such humble intentions. This particular Symphony Hall performance is a collaboration between “The Loft Sessions,” a video showcase for Berklee College of Music students and alumni, and members of the Boston Pops.
In addition to Lockhart, among the Berklee players are Boston Symphony Orchestra members Gus Sebring on horn and Owen Young on cello, both of whom teach at Berklee. Together they’re working on a live performance of a song written by Walk called “Keep on Dreaming.”
The video will premiere online Monday as the first of “The Loft Sessions” for the spring season. It’s also something of a sneak preview of an upcoming Boston Pops performance that will pair the orchestra with Melissa Etheridge on a bill that also features Berklee artists, including Walk, on June 12.
“It was a very cool experience. I’ve never played with that many people or on a stage like that, either,” says Walk, who graduated from Berklee last May and is in the midst of recording a new album in London and Los Angeles. “It was amazing. I’m definitely glad that we got a rehearsal in the day before Keith showed up, because I was a little anxious about that.”
Evan Chapman is the brains and brawn behind “The Loft Sessions,” having created it in 2012 as a way to give Berklee musicians more exposure, especially in the realm of social media. From behind the scenes, he does a lot of the heavy lifting: writing the orchestral arrangements, producing and editing the footage, working as part of the camera crew, and selecting the artists for the series.
“Considering Berklee is such a hub for every kind of player, I started reaching out to my friends in hopes of building a foundation for some singer-songwriters and performers I had met at Berklee who didn’t really have a platform to showcase their music,” says Chapman, who graduated from the school in December with a degree in composition and film scoring. “I started putting what I knew how to do together with what they knew how to do.”
The first session, with a singer-songwriter named Vince Cannady, went over well within the Berklee community, inspiring Chapman to do more with a wider scope. Including the session with the Pops, the series features 14 videos, most of which can be viewed on YouTube’s channel for “The Loft Sessions.”
“It’s a video series because I felt like it allowed the viewer to stay in the comfort of their home and watch on their time without being pulled from bed to go out and see a show,” Chapman says.
That said, all the videos are recorded live, usually at the Loft at 939, a multipurpose space on campus (hence the series’ name). Mixing and editing are involved, but Chapman and his crew pick one take of a song and work with that. The sessions draw from numerous pockets of Berklee, from members of different choirs (under the direction of Caitlin Banks) to players in various disciplines.
It’s also diverse in terms of the featured artists. Walk’s compositions are often elegant singer-songwriter fare heavy on rock, but the series has also spotlighted the R&B and funk of Shea Rose and the spoken-word poetry and rap of Matt Rosewood. The only common thread seems to be the amount of joy and enthusiasm the students bring to the performances.
“I think it’s a really cool concept,” Lockhart says. “The fact that this is a student-incentivized [series] speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Berklee students. Kids in traditional conservatories are far too often never given the tools to go out and create their own music in their own venues. They take classes and perform in the orchestra and that sort of thing. I thought this performance had the energy that you can only get from a group of students who are doing something ultimately because they want to be there.”
A labor of love long in the making and partly bolstered by fan-funding, “For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival” is finally out on DVD (and Blu-Ray) with an accompanying soundtrack. Produced and directed by Todd Kwait and Rob Stegman, the documentary chronicles the rise of Club 47, the fabled Harvard Square folk venue now known as Club Passim, with interviews with its prime players: Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Jim Kweskin, Jack Landrón (Jackie Washington), Geoff Muldaur, and Betsy Siggins, among others. Both the DVD and soundtrack are available through the film’s website (www.loveofthemusic.com) . . . She moved to Nashville several years ago, but Boston’s singer-songwriter community is still proud to claim Mary Gauthier as one of its own. The former longtime Boston resident comes home on June 11 for a show at Johnny D’s, with her superb new album, “Trouble & Love,” set for release that same week.