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The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the Hollywood Bowl's summer concert series for the first time in its 98-year history.

But in this year filled with uncertainty and hardships, organizers were determined to find a way to let the music continue. Their solution: "In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl," a new PBS series that will showcase some of the best performances from previous years. 

The first of six episodes featuring portions of performances that took place over the past 10 years will air Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS network affiliates and the PBS app. Los Angeles Philharmonic Association music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel serves as host.

The series, from Los Angeles PBS station KCET, first aired earlier this year in Southern California before getting picked up nationally.

More: Hollywood Bowl cancels summer season for first time in 98-year history due to COVID-19 pandemic

Dudamel told USA TODAY crafting the new series was difficult because of all the stellar performances the team had to sort through — from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and artists including Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Vives and Katy Perry.

"We have this amazing venue, the Hollywood Bowl. It's such an iconic place, a magic place," he said. "With such a beautiful archive, we said, 'Let's do something with this wonderful material.' "

The hope is that the show will enable viewers to escape the chaos that is 2020, at least for a little bit.  

"We're all missing live performances," Dudamel said. "We want people to feel like they are there. Where there is music, there is optimism, there is a healing element. We want people to have access to that. We are happy to be sharing this with people. Music is about bridges. It's about connections." 

Ahead of the series debut, USA TODAY asked Dudamel to share, in his own words, some of his picks for most memorable performances over the past decade.

Katy Perry

"I first met Katy Perry backstage after a performance with the Vienna Philharmonic in Argentina — one of her first times hearing an orchestral concert. I still remember the next morning, as I was filing through the airport in Buenos Aires with the musicians, you can't believe how astonished we were to see her tweeting about our (André) Tchaikowsky the night before to her more than 100 million Twitter followers. It blew my mind.

"So it was such a honor to then be able to invite her to perform with us at the Hollywood Bowl, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the LA Phil. Katy is such a hard-working, extraordinary musician, and her artistry is just breathtaking to experience. But what perhaps astonished me the most was how completely genuine she was — both backstage in the dressing room, but equally so on stage at the Bowl. It's so wonderful to see pop music and classical music come together in such harmony."

Natalia Lafourcade

"Working with Natalia is pure inspiration, and it makes me feel that we can go directly to the soul of the music of the Americas. Her voice is one of Mexico's greatest treasures — profound, intense and so professional. It has always been important to me to incorporate all genres of Latin American music into my programs, and so it was an indescribable privilege to be able to share the stage with her, and share her incredible music with the Bowl audience."

Herbie Hancock with Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller and Cindy Blackman Santana 

"I met Herbie for the first time at a concert in LA, but never would have dreamed to share the Hollywood Bowl stage with him, and then last year to tour with him to London. He is a true legend and an overwhelming musical force just by himself, so when you combine his awe-inspiring talent with other giants like Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller and Cindy Blackman Santana, it's the kind of once-in-a-lifetime musical experience that can only happen at the Hollywood Bowl."

Aaron Copland's 'A Lincoln Portrait' narrated by Vin Scully

"Copland had such an incredible talent for telling the story of America through music, and so it was truly unforgettable to perform his orchestral portrait of the great Abraham Lincoln with Vin Scully, who is simply the voice of Los Angeles sports."

'Swan Lake' with American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland

"I love dance — especially a good salsa — but to me Misty Copeland is an absolute icon of such elegance, beauty, depth. There is no greater ambassador for ballet. In this performance, she took the familiar classic 'Swan Lake' and made it completely her own, pouring pure artistry, power and grace into every movement."

Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges

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