It has been a tough year for the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra, but the show must go on and in this case it must go online.
“It’s an orchestral program played by five fantastic musicians,” said music director and conductor Michael Newnham, of the upcoming virtual concert.
Typically a show with the complete orchestra would include 50 to 75 musicians, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the group has scaled back to produce a program with five principal string players.
“At a time like this it is such a great reminder of how interconnected we are and how dependent we are on everybody to bring art and culture alive,” said concertmaster and violinist, Phoebe Tsang.
“A lot of us had not played for many months with other musicians, it is just something that has become really rare,” she said. “It has been a gift to be reminded of how special it is to play with other people.”
That’s a sentiment shared by principal violist, Elizabeth Morris.
“It was almost like a miracle to get together, five people in one room,” said Morris. “We were taking it for granted before, that possibility, but it really is like a miracle.”
The show is called Dancing to the Light and is a mix of familiar orchestral pieces, arranged for the smaller string section. Newnham said the performances combine music spanning some 300 years.
“The first piece that we have in the program was written at the end of the 17th century and when we get to the end of the program we have a song by Radiohead so it really goes the complete gambit,” he said.
Newnham said the virtual show is a way to stay connected to the community, something that has been difficult during the pandemic.
“The most important thing for us is that we wanted to stay in contact with our audience and with our supporters and with each other in some way and it has been extremely difficult,” he said.
Newnham said the organization has been unable to qualify for government support during the pandemic and that funding for the orchestra mainly comes from ticket sales.
He said while it has been tough to stay afloat, he is hopeful for the future of the group and the eventual return of live music.
“When you get to a point where you can’t push an organization anymore financially you have to find a way of stopping and trying to regroup, however, myself and the board and our supporters all believe that this organization is much too important to the city to just disappear and close up shop.”
The virtual show is pre-recorded and airs Saturday, April 17. To get tickets you can visit the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra website .
While the performance was done in an empty theatre, Tsang and Morris said the experience goes beyond a physical audience.
“You never feel like you’re alone, there is the echo of all of the audiences that have been in that space, all of the love and attention and passion for music that has been nurtured in a theatre,” said Tsang.
“It is also that we are playing for ourselves too and we know that each of us is listening and so we are working so much together,” Morris said. “I didn’t really think of ‘there is no audience physically here,’ I did think ‘there is potentially many people going to listen to this.’”
So while you may not be able to grab a balcony seat for this one (unless you have one at your home) you can pull up a spot on the couch to enjoy the show.
“There are little silver linings to the cloud and I would say that this is certainly one of them,” said Newnham.