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Sounds of the Symphony Restored

By Krista Pfunder 

It’s music to our ears. The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra is returning to the stage—and they’re taking a unique approach to COVID-19 precautions. 

The first concert of the 2020-21 season, The Four Seasons by Astor Piazzolla, will be performed Saturday, Sept. 26 live at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda. Yet, the audience will be watching from home.  

Music Director José-Luis Novo was preparing for the season when the pandemic hit earlier this year. 

“Once Maestro Novo has a rough outline of the season, he provides a list of artists to the Symphony team so they can begin to reach out to their managers and check artist availability,” says Edgar Herrera, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra executive director. “Some guests artists are booked one to two years in advance. So, you can imagine the Tetris game that ensues to bring the best the musical world has to offer.” 

The annual puzzle of booking artists was compounded with having to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic.  “I don’t think it is an understatement to say that we had to reinvent the symphony orchestra experience,” Herrera says. “Since COVID-19 is spread via air, that means no wind instruments. The programs through December will include only string, percussion, keyboard and harp.” 

Because the performers will need to practice social distancing on stage, a new space was necessary. 

“Our home venue stage at Maryland Hall didn’t have that kind of space,” Herrera says. “We are an affiliate member of the Music Center at Strathmore, so we are utilizing their larger stage for musician distancing.” 

To serve their audience, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra created their own platform to provide a rewarding at-home experience for viewers.  

“From the audience perspective, we had to find a way to deliver our gold standard quality to people in their own homes,” Herrera says. “The Strathmore has multi-camera capabilities which will enrich the viewing experience. We also needed a streaming platform robust enough to seamlessly handle everything. This led to the development of Symphony+, a comprehensive virtual platform powered by Vimeo Over the Top.”  

The All-Access Household Pass for Symphony+ is $99 for six live concerts, six pre-concert talks and on-demand replay of all content. 

“People anywhere in the world can take part,” Herrera says. “This new platform gives us an opportunity to expand our reach beyond the concert hall. While we love selling out the house, there is no limit to audience size in the virtual world.”  

The series for the 2020-21 season is titled “Harmony in Nature” and highlights composers and works inspired by Mother Nature.  

For a list of upcoming performances and purchase passes go to www.annapolissymphony.org