KCET Producing Best of Hollywood Bowl Concert Series

Adam Latham; David Livingston/Getty Images
The Hollywood Bowl; A sign outside the bowl, which is closed for 2020

With the iconic venue closed for summer 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, SoCal’s public media station is collaborating with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association on six episodes featuring performances by Carlos Santana, Kristin Chenoweth, Misty Copeland and more.

On May 13, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association announced that for the first time in its 98-year history, there would be no Hollywood Bowl season for 2020 because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. "When we closed the season, there was this outpouring of, 'If there’s no Hollywood Bowl, that means there's no summer,' which was really very touching and heartbreaking but also heartwarming," says Gail Samuel, president of the Hollywood Bowl and COO of the L.A. Phil Association.

Now audiences who are missing the Bowl experience will be able to watch a collection of performances held at the iconic venue over the years. Produced by Southern California public media station KCET in association with the L.A. Phil Association, In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, announced today, is a six-episode weekly music series featuring some of the best live performances of the past decade at the Bowl, all drawn from the L.A. Phil archives. Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will host each show, in segments filmed at the Bowl, and conduct virtual interviews with a number of the featured artists. In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl premieres Aug. 19 at 9 p.m. on KCET and runs every Wednesday through Sept. 23 with encore broadcasts on PBS SoCal on Fridays. PBS stations nationwide will broadcast the shows in early 2021. "With KCET’s partnership, we will be able to have a Hollywood Bowl season after all — right in the living rooms of music fans," says Samuel.

The performances have never previously been televised. "Only those folks who were at the Bowl at these particular concerts saw them. We looked at the [L.A. Phil] archives of the last 10 years and curated what would be the best offerings," says KCET chief creative officer Juan Devis, who explains that all of the footage in the series was shot and originally used only during Bowl performances themselves. "They filmed the shows to present on the gigantic video screens that they have at the Bowl and all of that is archived." Putting together the show required securing permissions from all of the artists involved. What helped make that happen, says Samuel, is that many of those included are "artists we have long and very close relationships with."

The series takes in the large variety of music included in every Bowl season with each episode centering on a different theme, including "Hecho en Mexico" ("Made in Mexico") featuring Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade; "Gustavo and Friends," which includes ballet star Misty Copeland performing a selection from Swan Lake; and "Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl" including Dianne Reeves, Kamasi Washington and Mega Nova (Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter).

Further episodes include "Musicals and the Movies" featuring Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell; "Música Sin Fronteras" ("Music Without Borders") celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month; and "Fireworks!" which spotlights Pink Martini, Nile Rodgers & CHIC and John Williams with the L.A. Phil performing the score from Star Wars.

Other performers include Rodrigo y Gabriela, Los Ángeles Azules, La Santa Cecilia, Christian McBride, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Cindy Blackman Santana, Sutton Foster, Carlos Vives, Café Tacvba, Diego el Cigala and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra principal conductor Thomas Wilkins.

As host, "Gustavo Dudamel is going to take us through the journey of what these episodes are about," says Devis, "and why they are put together the way they are, and a bit of history about the music. He'll talk to the artists in Colombia or Mexico or in New York City or wherever they are and sort of ground the audience in whatever is happening right now. He'll tell us a story in each episode."

With the series pivoting between past performances and these new segments featuring "Gustavo alone in the shell of the empty Bowl," continues Devis, "it will create a counterpoint showing the situation we're in and sort of ground the audience in what is happening right now. It's another version of what summer at the Bowl could be."