The organization will have smaller, socially-distanced shows starting in November.
The Sarasota Orchestra last performed as a full ensemble in March. It seems it will be some time before the musicians are completely together again.
The Sarasota Orchestra has postponed its concerts through May 2021 in response to the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It became pretty clear to us that people, our patrons, audiences, were not likely to return to large group gatherings anytime soon,” said President and CEO Joseph McKenna. “So we really put health and safety first for our audience.”
The orchestra cancelled its earlier concerts in mid-March and then its Sarasota Music Festival in June. Conversations to postpone the fall and spring performances started in June.
A clear problem for the arts organization when trying to put together safety protocols was its large number of performers who would often perform at several different venues across the city. Coupled with audiences feeling unsafe to head back into a theater or arts space until therapeutics or a COVID-19 vaccine are developed, staff decided to postpone what was planned.
Artistic adviser Jeffrey Kahane is planning a number of smaller ensemble concerts starting in November as alternate programming. The idea is each concert will have two to 15 performers spaced apart in Holley Hall at the Orchestra’s Symphony Center.
Safety protocols will include socially distanced audience seating, mask requirements, and deep cleaning of the seats between performances. Orchestra staff is sticking to CDC guidelines — currently recommending six feet of distance apart from one another — and is trying to remain flexible to adapt to any new guidelines that could be announced. The upcoming shows are planned for 50 people or less.
Though it’s still in the planning stages, McKenna said he wouldn’t be surprised if the first concerts in the new series are string music-oriented, because of the musicians' ability to wear masks and reduce the possibility of virus transmission.
He hopes the orchestra could put on live pop-up performances outdoors in the future, when the weather is more conducive. But the focus for now is still delivering smaller performances with Orchestra talent.
“While it's disappointing to implement the postponement, there is some good energy that we can now direct towards getting our musicians engaged with alternative programs,” McKenna said. (The concerts) can still help us connect with the community, remain relevant, and create a sort of a foundation for us to get ready for recovery.”