“I want to bring new people to orchestras,” says Frazier, who likes to stage his intermission-free format in unorthodox venues. “Modern audiences are not hooked on a concert hall. I firmly believe that they’re hooked on an experience, and so the more I can create different experiences, the better.”
During the pandemic, that’s meant weekly trivia live-streams, virtual performances, intimate porch concerts, and PBS specials. The first, “Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas With Vanessa Williams,” filmed at the Meridian International Center in front of a small audience, premieres this week and features Williams, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carmen Ruby Floyd and Morgan James re-creating Ella Fitzgerald’s 60-year-old Christmas album.
The second, the New Year’s Eve event “United in Song: Celebrating America’s Resilience,” was filmed at Mount Vernon and finds Patti LaBelle, Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, Juanes, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald performing an eclectic mix of American classics.
“I’m 35, but I’m about 90 years old at heart,” Frazier says. “I feel like and so much of the music that is in my head and my heart is of past generations.”
The West Virginia native calls himself a homebody who’d rather tend to his garden near Washington National Cathedral than spend a night barhopping. His D.C. dream day is appropriately subdued.
When I wake up I watch my morning news: “Morning Joe” or CNN. I’ll also catch up on The Washington Post and Politico just to see what’s going on. The other thing that’s really important in the morning is my dogs. I have two Shih Tzus: Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald, and Daisy. Usually they don’t want to get out of bed, and I don’t want to get out of bed.
I’d like to take a run through American University Park. I love doing that. That’s also when I listen to podcasts. I listen to “The Daily,” “On Point,” and “1A.” Sometimes I’ll listen to audiobooks. I’m almost an exclusive nonfiction reader.
When I get home — in good weather — I like to garden. I’m constantly out tending plants and planting new plants, shaping and pruning. I have a koi pond, and I like to take care of my fish. My house is full of indoor plants, too. I grew up gardening in West Virginia, it was very much part of me. It’s very therapeutic because so much of my work is in my head.
Next, I’ll practice piano for the day. I have seven pianos in my house. The reason is because I do concerts in so many nontraditional spaces and they either have a piano that’s not appropriate for orchestral performance, or they don’t have a piano. I realized that I needed a piano or two that I knew I loved and could take on a concert. I have pianos that are stored in a special room, and I have three pianos that are out in my house that I use all the time. They’re Steinways. I love to play the music of Bach and Chopin.
For lunch, I order Cava all the time, an embarrassing amount. I’m a vegetarian so I get the greens and grains bowl with falafel, and when I’m feeling extra luxurious, I’ll order pita chips and dip. It’s so funny that that is my splurge. I love the roasted red pepper hummus, the crazy feta, the eggplant and tzatziki.
I really love Mount Vernon as a place to visit. Again, being a history person, there’s something magical about it. I find it so calming, the grounds, overlooking the Potomac. It’s a time to reflect on so much history: the good, the bad, the ugly, which Mount Vernon kind of encapsulates.
I also collect antiques very seriously. I would either go to Christ Child Opportunity Shop in Georgetown, Miss Pixie’s or S&K Consignment Gallery in Bethesda. I collect portraits and portrait paintings — of anyone — it’s really a portrait that strikes me. They’re mostly 19th-century portraits. But I am extremely frugal about it. One of the things I love is to buy damaged paintings that most people would get rid of. You get an amazing price and then I have a lady in town restore them. It’s so much fun seeing the transformation.
Next, I’m going to American Plant. It’s getting to the point where it’s a little crazy in my house. I just keep adding plants and plants and plants. But I think plants make a home warm. I love different varieties of ferns. It’s not the most exotic plant, but I think it’s very much connected to my personality. I love the nuance. One of the things about ferns is there are so many different varieties that have subtle differences. Also green is my favorite color.
Then I’ll probably have an afternoon training session. My trainer is in New York, and I do my sessions virtually. It’s more strength training because one of the things about conducting is it’s very physically demanding.
If I’m just relaxing after that, I love watching documentaries. I have watched Ken Burns’s “The Civil War” 14 times in its entirety. Right now I’m watching “The Reagans” on Showtime, which is really fabulous. I love “The Roosevelts.” I learn something new every time. I get a lot of show ideas from them.
If I’m going to have a nice evening out, my favorite place is the Jefferson Hotel. It’s classic elegance. It’s old world. It’s intimate. I love intimate, small gatherings. Every Christmas Eve, we take a group of 12 or 14 people to dinner at Plume, and it’s a beautiful, elegant evening. That’s one of the things I’m going to miss most this year is not being able to have that dinner. The chef there always makes me a beautiful vegetarian menu. Our wedding dinner was there. I take my artists there for after-show drinks.
I love herbaceous things, so I love a vodka soda infused with different herbs: peppercorns, rosemary and sage or different citrus. The bar at Quill is the best in all of the DMV.
The whole time we’re listening to music that I’ve curated and that playlist is like Nat King Cole and Kay Starr, one of my very favorite singers. At the end of the dinner, we always create a little gift bag for everyone to take home. And that has chocolate because chocolate is my ultimate weakness.