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NEWS: SPCO Cancels Concerts through End of Year

Countertenor Reginald Mobley with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in one of the ensemble’s December 2018 concert performances of Handel’s Messiah. The performance is one of many available through the SPCO website.

Today, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra became the latest performing arts organization in the Twin Cities to cancel its remaining programming through the end of the year. “There is great uncertainty as to what the winter will bring,” the organization said in a statement. “But we hope that our concerts can resume with in-person audiences in early 2021.”

At present, the SPCO is planning to resume performances in January 2021, pending changes in global health conditions and advice from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the interim, the organization stated, “We are exploring the possibility of developing new material to share digitally, including live performances streamed from the Ordway Concert Hall. The most important consideration in developing new performances will be the health and safety of our musicians and staff.”

Offering live performances in an audience-less concert hall, streamed in real-time over the Internet, has successfully been used by a number of German orchestras. Those efforts were founded on several scientific studies on airflow, droplet dispersion, and mask efficacy, and involve spacing musicians according to air conditioning flow, instrument type, and other consideration. Brass players, for example, propel a large volume of air and require more spacing under these guidelines than string players.

While several dinner theatres are currently piloting performances with live, in-person audiences using masks and/or face shields, most performing arts organizations have taken a more conservative approach. Wolf Trap Opera, located in Vienna, VA, is a notable pioneer in reconfiguring its rehearsal/performing spaces and staging to allow safe, live performances by a large ensemble being livestreamed for digital audiences.

SPCO also announced plans to post additional concert recordings from its archives for free, online streaming.

Twin Cities Arts Reader