The New Haven Symphony Orchestra will not perform in front of a live audience until 2021. Instead, the ensemble will focus on virtual programming. The decision is a response to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
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“At the end of the day the key word was safety,” said Elaine Carroll, CEO of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. “When you look at how an orchestra works together, we collaborate closely as a large group of people. That’s just not safe right now. But more importantly was the safety of the public. To do something that would encourage over a thousand people to get together just didn’t seem wise now, and it didn’t seem like it was going to be wise for the foreseeable future."
For the rest of 2020, the ensemble will focus on its ongoing online offerings, including the NHSO @Home series, and the very popular Instrument Selection Resource Center, where teachers can help children decide what instrument to play.
The NHSO will also launch other virtual initiatives, like Christmas in July, featuring past NHSO holiday performances and sing-alongs for kids.
In early August, the ensemble will host the HomeCooked Music Festival, a series of virtual concerts to raise money for New Haven-area nonprofits that address food insecurity.
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra lost 16 live performances this spring because of COVID-19, and its decision to wait until 2021 will cost it an additional nine performances in the fall. Despite the loss in tickets sales, Carroll said she’s confident the ensemble will survive. Patrons and supporters were very generous this spring, and a federal loan has allowed the ensemble to keep paying its staff and core group of musicians.
Carroll said as hard as the canceled performances have been on the audiences and staff, it’s the musicians of the orchestra who are heartbroken.
“They want to find a way to connect,” she said. “These are insanely talented people with something to share, and they are just sitting in their apartments and they’re practicing and there’s no one to share it with, that’s very tough.”
The NHSO expects to return to live performances in January, but it will make the final decision in October.
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra played its first concert in 1895 and is the fourth-oldest orchestra in the U.S.