The COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person production of Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (A2SO) concerts for almost a year, but the orchestra finally returned on Feb. 20 – with a pandemic-safe makeover.
Performances for the remainder of A2SO's season, running through May 1, will be pre-recorded at the Michigan Theater a week before scheduled release dates. Ticket holders will then receive a link to access them online through June 30.
Last fall A2SO was able to record small performances with a maximum of four musicians in the Kerrytown Concert House. Audiences were able to enjoy the shows virtually, and performances are still available for purchase. But the first three concerts of this year will be the first full-orchestra performances A2SO has held since the beginning of the pandemic.
Extensive safety protocols have been put into place to keep these performances as safe as possible. Tyler Rand, executive director of A2SO, says the orchestra has implemented "[COVID-19] testing before rehearsals and performances, enhanced contact tracing programs, temperature screenings, and social distancing on stage.” Masks are worn on stage, and musicians spend less time together with shorter rehearsals. The usual stage breaks between programs are filled with 30-minute "room rests," allowing for outside air to circulate in the theater. There is no live audience, and the only people allowed in the theater during rehearsals and performances are the musicians, stage hands, and the Michigan Theater staff.
A2SO's virtual concerts have been helpful in bringing some revenue back to local businesses. In the fall, A2SO hosted virtual dinner concerts, for which ticket holders purchased curbside meals from Ann Arbor restaurants including The Ravens Club and Zingerman’s Roadhouse. A2SO is planning to continue virtual dinner concerts through the new season, and has plans for concerts this Easter and Mother’s Day.
“We constantly receive comments back from our subscribers thanking us for giving them something to enjoy at home, something to look forward to, and a way to stay engaged with their community,” Rand says.
A2SO hopes to welcome in-person audiences back this fall. Until then, you can purchase tickets from the virtual fall 2020 concerts and the virtual spring 2021 season at the orchestra's website.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Maria Patton is a lifelong Ypsilanti resident. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor’s degree in communications and media. You can find more of her work in The Michigan Daily, where she is a columnist for the Michigan in Color section. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of A2SO.