Update: highlights of the 24 hour event now available on the Music Never Sleeps NYC YouTube channel.

Jan Vogler in New York City © Marco Grob
Jan Vogler in New York City
© Marco Grob

New York, famously, is the city that never sleeps. And for 24 hours, starting at 6pm EST on Friday 27 March, music lovers won’t be doing much sleeping either. The city is jam-packed with top class musicians who are currently distinctly under-employed: over 60 of them are going to be involved in a music streaming marathon.

In particular, NYC is home to a currently under-employed star cellist: Jan Vogler. When he got home a couple of weeks ago on the last flight from Bogota “before the airport madness happened”, Vogler got inundated with requests to play music online. He was reluctant to just put his own streams on social media (“that would have felt a bit egotistical”), but being also a director of two major festivals, he decided that those skills would help him put together the best and brightest of New York’s music scene. Things snowballed from there...

People who tune in to “Music Never Sleeps NYC” are going to be astonished by the variety. “New York is one of those great creative cities with people creating all kinds of things. After 20 years living there, I’m still amazed at how new generations grow up and bring new things to the table”. There’s going to be plenty of top end “straight” classical (Midori, for example, playing a whole Bach solo violin partita). There will be several duos (partners can play together in this time). But there will also be “some really cool stuff that could only happen in NY – some people who have special talents where I just sit there and go ‘Ooh, I wish I could do that.’” The roster includes “some of the most magical crossover artists I know”, like Bela Fleck, a banjoist whose own albums are impossibly eclectic but who Vogler considers equal in musicality to the best the classical world has to offer. Mandolinist Chris Thile normally plays bluegrass but happens to play Bach quite superbly; folk-based singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan blew Vogler away when he saw her two years ago: “so in tune that no classical musician can have such an intonation.”

For an event on this scale, the quality of programming becomes critical. As well as using his own experience from Dresden and Moritzburg, Vogler enlisted some highly experienced friends: Eric Jacobsen, founder of The Knights, and Kathy Schuman, Artistic Director of the Caramoor Festival. The constrained time hasn’t stopped them putting immense thought into the curation, providing an enticing, coherent, varied programme: “We’re mixing younger and older, mixing instruments, mixing different colours. We have humour, we have very deep music, some musical jokes, all kinds of things. Programming is like playing – it’s an artistic work.”

At the same time, the programmers have done their best to cater for the needs of artists ranging from world famous stars to musicians at the start of their career. For example, younger musicians who are going to playing at the slots in the early hours of the morning will have their performances repeated later to get better exposure.

Everyone is very sad to see that concerts that have been prepared for years have been wiped out of the calendars at a stroke. For established, long-standing artists like Vogler himself, he feels the situation will be hard but not impossible. But he finds it almost unbearable to imagine the feelings that younger artists must experience when they wake up in the morning to find an email cancelling a concert that should have been their breakthrough event. Many musicians are going to find it hard financially, so the event will give many opportunities for viewers to donate to organisations who help musicians in hard times: “For lots of people who have a much shorter planning horizon because they have to make for their rent: costs are high, fees are low. It’s super-hard for them.”

Jan Vogler hasn't been doing much sleeping in the last couple of weeks. Music won't be sleeping on March 27-28. And neither should you...

You can watch the music here.