Boston Symphony Orchestra cancels live fall 2020 season at Symphony Hall

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Symphony Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s home since 1900. Photo by David L. Ryan

“The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its fall programming at Symphony Hall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” writes Zoë Madonna in Thursday’s (7/30) Boston Globe. “The cancellation covers 37 concerts of 14 programs…. Never in its 139-year history has the BSO canceled so many concerts. The fall of 1918 saw the season delayed by two weeks due to the influenza pandemic, and Tanglewood seasons were shortened for three summers and canceled for one during World War II…. In place of in-person programming, the orchestra plans to create a new series of online content for the fall, in the vein of the BSO At Home and Tanglewood Online offerings that have (to date) prompted over 13 million interactions on the orchestra’s website and social media pages. Details of the fall online season will be announced in September. A decision about the 2020 Holiday Pops season will be announced in October. The orchestra will decide by the end of this calendar year whether live performances with audiences will resume during the winter/spring portion of the season, which runs Jan. 7 to May 1, 2021…. The orchestra has not yet released estimated revenue loss due to the fall 2020 cancellations.”

July 31, 2020

Kansas City Symphony trims staff and salaries following fall concert postponements

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“The Kansas City Symphony is feeling the financial effects of Covid-19 and is trimming its expenses by 25% [via] salary reductions for musicians and other positions, trimming some administrative staff and leaving eight vacant orchestra positions unfilled,” writes Leslie Collins in Thursday’s (7/30) Kansas City Business Journal (MO). “The symphony amended its current musicians’ contract, which continues through the 2023-2024 season, and will require musicians to take a 19% salary cut for the 2020-2021 season. Salaries will rise to 8% below normal levels when the orchestra begins hosting ticketed performances … at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The symphony … didn’t reduce musician salaries during the first five months of the pandemic…. Executive Director Danny Beckley said [the orchestra] is hosting outdoor performances … in parks and neighborhoods [and is] devising plans for a ‘robust offering.’ … The symphony previously announced it would move this year’s Classical, Pops and Family concerts to next year…. It plans to announce more details in August about socially distanced concerts…. The symphony now is considering hosting multiple performances throughout the week to cater to smaller audiences and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some concerts also will be available to watch online.”

July 31, 2020

Tucson-based orchestras, remaining creative during the pandemic

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This spring, composer and musician Bob Atwell wrote a piece “for the times we are living through” for the Tucson-based Foothills Philharmonic, writes Cathalena E. Burch in Saturday’s (7/25) Arizona Daily Star. “Aptly named ‘Corona Waltz’ … the work, which 20 members of the 80-member orchestra recorded in June for a YouTube video that was released last week, is among the more ambitious projects undertaken by Tucson orchestras during the pandemic. From the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s virtual book club streamed through its YouTube channel to True Concord Voices & Orchestra’s weekly themed playlists … conductors and musicians are thinking outside the box and turning to technology to keep the music going…. ‘We all are learning through this difficult time … how much music means to the world, especially now that live music has been put on hold,’ Tucson Symphony Music Director José Luis Gomez said…. Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra Music Director Linus Lerner, who has been back in his native Brazil since mid-March, produced several virtual performances [including] one with a dozen members of SASO … Gomez’s book club … reached 5,000 people through social media … The club includes conversations about famous musical figures and theories.” Keitaro Harada, music director of the Savannah Philharmonic and a frequent guest conductor at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, is also quoted in the article.

July 31, 2020

San Francisco cultural leaders float ideas for alternative performance spaces

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“For the near term … an arts event that involves the gathering of people will likely have to move outdoors, or be staged inside [large] spaces,” writes Sam Whiting in Sunday’s (7/26) San Francisco Chronicle. “We [asked] a broad cross section of 22 Bay Area cultural thought leaders, If you were given a swath of land and allowed to reconfigure aspects of it to create safer arts experiences, what would it look like?” Among the responses were Phillippa Cole, director of artistic planning, San Francisco Symphony (“I love the idea of the Symphony orchestra literally popping out of a shipping container on a flatbed truck and performing on the back of that truck, which could drive to various locations…. Repertoire [could] be selected by the audience members from an electronic menu … like a juke box)” and Matthew Shilvock, general director, San Francisco Opera (“A massive stage would be erected over the top of the three Fort Mason piers …a gathering place on a mega scale [with the] audience … on boats [surrounding] Fort Mason on all sides…. Social-distanced viewing would also be available on the Great Meadow”). Other ideas include open-air stages, audience igloos, and a socially distanced sculpture garden.

July 31, 2020

Dubuque Symphony names Rob Stull and Ghyas Zeidieh to lead youth orchestras

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“As the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra figures out how its youth ensembles will function during the new school year, it welcomes two new directors for those groups,” writes Herb Trix on Wednesday (7/29) at radio station WVIK (Iowa/Illinois). “The DSO recently hired Rob Stull as conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra (DSYO), and Ghyas Zeidieh as conductor of the Youth String Ensemble and Philharmonia. The youth orchestra has about 35 students, from grades 8 to 12, and the lower ensembles [comprise] mostly students in grades 5 to 8. Dr. Stull—who earned his doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music—is Director of Bands and Assistant Professor at Clarke University [in Dubuque], and replaces Benjamin Firer…. Dr. Zeidieh—who has a doctorate from the University of Iowa—has led many workshops with student orchestras and youth symphonies, including the Quad City Youth Symphony…. Hannah Von Mulert, education director for the Dubuque Symphony, says the DSO is working on a schedule for the fall, while waiting for the school district to figure out its schedule…. Normally, the youth ensembles would start auditions and rehearsals in late August, with three concerts during the year.”

July 31, 2020

LA Opera plans Jan. 2021 reopening; shifts fall 2020 productions to fall 2021

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“Los Angeles Opera is postponing for an entire year all four productions that had been scheduled for this fall, the company said Tuesday as it outlined the depths of the financial fallout from COVID-19,” writes Jessica Gelt in Tuesday’s (7/28) Los Angeles Times. “The four productions pushed to fall 2021 are” La Cenerentola, Il Trovatore, Tannhäuser, and “Get Out in Concert, music performed live to a screening of the Jordan Peele film…. The company’s tentative goal for resuming in-person performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is the Jan. 30 scheduled opening of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. New programming for fall 2020 will be presented digitally, but the company is holding out hope that it can present performances outdoors if that is deemed safe…. L.A. Opera is in discussions with the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musical Artists about providing financial support for the more than 300 orchestra musicians and artists under contract for the postponed productions. The company is grappling with the loss of an estimated $9 million in revenue for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and it expects losses for 2020-21 to run $13 million to $22 million.”

July 31, 2020

New Haven Symphony and partners help the hungry with Aug. 1-8 virtual festival

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The New Haven Symphony Orchestra is presenting a virtual festival to raise money and awareness for food insecurity in New Haven, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. The “HomeCooked Music Festival” will be held from August 1 to 18 in partnership with local restaurants and other area organizations. Curated by the NHSO, the festival will feature virtual music videos donated by local guest artists and community music partners, including the New Haven Symphony Orchestra; NHSO CEO Elaine C. Carroll; Anton Kot, composer and pianist; Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus; Connecticut State Senator George Logan; Dr. Tiffany R. Jackson, soprano; Heritage Chorale Director Jonathan Berryman; Kenneth Joseph and the St. Luke’s Steel Band; Lisa Williamson, soprano; Morse Academy students; Southern Connecticut State University President Joseph Bertolino; Thabisa, vocal artist; and Yale University President Peter Salovey. During the performances, artists will urge viewers to support the Community Soup Kitchen, ConnCAT’s Culinary Arts Academy, Haven’s Harvest, and the New Haven Food Policy Council. NHSO restaurant partners will create special take-out menus whose partial proceeds will be donated to partner organizations. The calendar of digital events is available at NewHavenSymphony.org and videos will be posted on YouTube.com/NewHavenSymphony as well as NewHavenSymphony.org.

July 31, 2020