The past few weeks have been busy and unprecedented for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, thanks to Covid-19.

The QCSO performed at Riverfront Pops in Davenport’s LeClaire Park.

Executive director Brian Baxter said Monday that the Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops Sept. 12 went extremely well, given that rain threatened that day, and they wrestled with a complex new seating arrangement in LeClaire Park.

The Quad City Symphony Orchestra performing, socially distanced, on the stage of the Adler Theatre.

“It was an unbelievable undertaking,” he said. “It was a tremendous effort on the part of our staff and our volunteers. The amount of work it took to make the safety precautions a reality was a lot. On top of making sure it’s safe in the Covid pandemic environment, the threat of rain was the worst I’ve seen for this event.

“We had some of our space limited, due to city construction,” he said of the Davenport riverfront park. “There were a lot of obstacles, but we overcame them and we had a successful, safe show. The musicians did a great job; artistically, it was very good. It was a powerful event for us.”

In the park bandshell, there were 27 orchestra musicians (playing in mask under the baton of assistant conductor Ernesto Estigarribia), backing the guest Fleetwood Mac tribute band, separated by a Plexiglas barrier. The concert attracted 2,000 in the audience, Baxter said, and each party had its own assigned plot – varying in size for two, six or 10 people.

“We split it into zones, so to get one closer to the stage, you paid more,” he said, noting they also filled 105 of

QCSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz will solo in the Beethoven Violin Concerto in November.

the permanent seats, socially distanced.

The staff and volunteers had to trudge through the wet park the day before to set up, and Baxter said “it was by the grace of God” the rain didn’t call off the event. “It was harrowing,” he said. “It was very dramatic. We really needed a documentary crew following us. It was an epic story.”

On Sept. 19, the QCSO held a virtual Signature Soiree fundraiser, including an auction and Maestro Mark Russell Smith. The “Moonlight”-themed music featured concertmaster Naha Greenholtz, principal cellist Hannah Holman and pianist Ghadeer Abaido.

Ludwig van Beethoven, born 250 years ago this December, sports a QCSO mask.

“The virtual soiree went very well,” Baxter said. “It was obviously very different; we didn’t have the energy of the room that we normally have. We did hit our budgeted goal.”

The QCSO made $43,000 from the event.

This past weekend (Oct. 3-4) had socially distanced concerts at the Adler Theatre – the longtime QCSO home which welcomed the public back for its first event since “Dancing With the Stars” in early March, Baxter said. They had 250 people on Saturday night and 150 for Sunday.

For the first time, the orchestra is providing digital access to its Masterworks concerts for 30 days (until Nov. 2 for the first one) for $40 per household. “A number of subscribers and ticket buyers did switch to the digital,” Baxter said, noting they’ve sold 219 so far.

“If you think about if you’re a couple and don’t want to go to the symphony, and switch to digital access, it is cheaper certainly, than two tickets,” he said of the filmed concert, streamed online.

The Adler can seat 25-percent capacity at maximum (or over 600), but the reality is, that relies on several groups of four, Baxter said. People from different orders had to be separated in the hall.

“It’s keeping all the groups disparate,” he said of the intermission-less program. Patrons, the 40-person orchestra and music director Mark

Mark Russell Smith conducts the QCSO wearing a mask at the Adler this past weekend.

Russell Smith all wore masks.

Among the new theater protocols are:

  • Facilities: The venue will be deep cleaned and sanitized prior to patron arrival, and a sanitizing crew will spray and disinfect all surfaces after each event.  The HVAC system has been set to increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system.
  • Social Distancing: The audience size will be limited and patrons will be spread throughout the hall. The floor will be marked to keep audience members socially distanced for entry. Patrons will be assigned a specific entry time by section, and dismissal will be controlled to reduce overcrowding.
  • Reduced Contact: Tickets will not be sold on-site, and must be purchased in advance. Tickets will not be touched by the ticket scanners, and program booklets will only be available in a digital format. The program booklet will be available in advance online if attendees wish to print their own copies, or guests may request a print copy of the program to be mailed to them for a $4 fee up to 14 days before the event.

Patrons get directions at the Sept. 12 Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops.

It will be the same set-up through December for Masterworks, Baxter said.

“The audience, people I spoke to were tremendously appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy music safely,” he said. “We had 100% compliance with the mask requirement. We had announcements about it, reminders when people walked in, reminders to stay distanced

QCSO assistant conductor Ernesto Estigarribia (left) led the Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops concert.

from other groups. It’s a pretty darn safe environment, especially when you’ve got everybody masked. That’s our top priority.”

This past weekend’s program (highlighting Beethoven’s First Symphony) was about 70 minutes, which is the approximate length for the next Masterworks, Nov. 7-8. That will feature a Bela Bartok piece and the Beethoven Violin Concerto, showcasing Greenholtz.

“It’s an interesting position to be in,” Baxter said of planning concerts during Covid. “We’ve never had to think this hard about every little, itty-bitty aspect of the concert experience, both for the patrons and the musicians. So it’s a lot of work and it’s taken since May – we’ve had this coronavirus task force assessing all the risks.

“There are precautions we can put in place to make the working environment safe for musicians, and the experience safe for the patrons,” he said. “There’s been a lot of feedback that’s gone into this. Again, the Scott County Health Department has been very generous with their time, to help us and inform all of our precautions. It’s a team effort.”

The first Masterworks should be re-broadcast on WVIK on Sunday, Oct. 18.

For tickets and more information, contact the symphony at 563-322-7276 or www.qcso.org.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.