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Coronavirus: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performs first shows since March

Click to play video 'Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performs first shows since March' Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performs first shows since March
The Winspear Centre is ready to welcome you back, though its changed its tune a bit. Community reporter Morgan Black explores how the centre has re-imagined concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic – Oct 6, 2020

Edmonton’s Winspear Centre hosted its first concert since March on Monday night as part of its “reimagined” 2020-21 season.

Performances were put on hold in March due to health restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Performing arts will be one of last sectors to reopen, Calgary city council told

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) performed to a drastically reduced audience. The orchestra will vary in size for each program and be limited to 30 musicians on stage for each performance.

ESO rehearses Vivaldi’s “Autumn” on Oct. 1, 2020.
ESO rehearses Vivaldi’s “Autumn” on Oct. 1, 2020. Courtesy: Allan Cabral

There will also be no brass or wind instruments played for the time being.

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“Current regulations have some restrictions on those instruments. So for earlier programs, we’re going to stick to just strings to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible,” explained the Winspear’s Joyce LaBriola.

Read more: Amateurs and pros making beautiful music together at Winspear

The hall has 1,752 seats, but just 100 audience members will be allowed inside at a time.

“It’s stark, but it’s still beautiful,” LaBriola said.

“One patron [on Monday night,] when she saw the hall, she teared up. She saw the tape on the seats [to mark physical distance] and thought this is so sad… but beautiful.”

A series of concerts were offered to subscribers and sold out in days.

Read more: Winspear Centre expansion project to include second music hall

The ESO performed its first program, titled “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Each month, the following month’s schedule of concerts will be announced to members first and then single-ticket buyers.

While on hiatus, the musicians performed more than 180 community concerts.

“They went to backyards, parking lots. They performed for over 8,000 people and raised $160,000 [for the Winspear], just in dollar bills from Edmontonians,” LaBriola said.
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Click to play video 'Edmonton Flamenco Festival at the Winspear Centre' Edmonton Flamenco Festival at the Winspear Centre
Edmonton Flamenco Festival at the Winspear Centre – Mar 7, 2020

Cosette Justo Valdés with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra said it was a special moment to welcome audience members back inside.

“We have missed it so much. Our patrons have too… because it’s a community experience. We share our best times on the stage. Music comes directly to our souls.”

Read more: Battle of Alberta: Edmonton, Calgary orchestras unite to perform physically distanced ‘Hockey Night in Canada’

You can find membership information here.