You’ve probably heard the old showbiz saying “The show must go on.” Well, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is going ahead with its annual gala this weekend. Only, this year, people will be sipping cocktails in their tuxes and gowns and enjoying the music from the comfort of their own living rooms.
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Timing is everything, and what made the timing of this pandemic so devastating for many arts organizations is that it hit weeks before the spring gala season. These functions are important moneymakers, and many organizations canceled or postponed theirs.
Ruth Sovronsky, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s director of development, said that back in March, the HSO wasn’t sure what to do about its planned May 2 gala.
“We had also just sent all of our invitations, so everything was hitting mailboxes,” she said. “We could have canceled, and we knew that other arts organizations did. Or we could try and do something on a virtual platform.”
But how do you bring the real-world experience of a gala to the virtual world? Sovronsky said as a live performing arts organization, the HSO staff had very little experience putting on a virtual performance.
“What we did was a lot of research on what’s out there, what are the possibilities,” Sovronsky said. “I have watched more webinars in two or three weeks than I have ever watched in my whole life. We all divided all of these webinars, and we came back and we came to a decision that we think we can do this. The more we looked at it, the more we all believed in it.”
The end result is “Reimagine Joy,” a 45-minute virtual gala complete with online performances by members of the HSO, a virtual silent auction and other surprises. HSO musicians donated their time and came up with some creative and fun videos to promote the event, like this one called “How to Attend a Virtual Gala.”
For those who are attending their first-ever online gala, how do you make the most of it? Sovronsky has some suggestions.
“Get together a team of your friends, invite them on to a Zoom party at 6:15 and have some cocktails together before the event,” she said. “Grab a meal from one of your favorite restaurants, dress up, turn on the gala and have fun!”
The HSO’s virtual gala is Saturday night beginning at 7. You can attend (virtually) for free at hartfordsymphony.org/bravo.