As many orchestras nationwide have cancelled in-person concerts for the fall, the show must go on for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra (QCSO). It’s proceeding with fall Masterworks concerts at Davenport’s Adler Theatre, which will undergo some major changes.

Following recommendations from the Scott County Health Department, the QCSO has altered its October, November and December programs – to cut the ensemble size in half, to about 40 musicians; allow only 25 percent capacity in the Adler for both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon concerts; require masks and social distancing, and eliminate intermissions and sale of concessions.

Brian Baxter

“There’s two crucial things that are underlining everything that we’re doing,” QCSO executive director Brian Baxter said Thursday. “We’re trying to get masks worn and keep people socially distanced. In order to keep people distanced, we need to avoid an intermission to avoid mingling in the lobby. Plus, less time inside together the better, the risk is lower.”

“It’s a very different setup than we would do under normal circumstances,” he said. “The orchestra is less than half the size for all the programs. We can’t do Beethoven 9, because 150 singers on stage, that’s not possible in this environment. The length of the program is shortened so we can have a performance with no intermission.”

As part of worldwide celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth (Dec. 17, 1770), the QCSO had planned to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which features the choral “Ode to Joy” last movement, on Oct. 3-4. It typically has Sunday matinee concerts at Augustana College’s Centennial Hall; instead, both will be held at the Adler.

The fall Masterworks concerts can be enjoyed in person or via high-definition live stream for the Sunday performance (which will be a recording from Saturday night). Digital access will be available for purchase for single concerts or in a subscription package. Subscribers will have the first right of refusal for in-person tickets or can choose to switch to digital access for the fall.

“We’re trying to preserve the live music, provide a livestream option for those unable or uncomfortable coming in person, and still deliver on our mission,” Baxter said. “All of these things are being done on consultation with the Scott County Health Department, which has been extremely generous with their time and helpful as we formulate our plans. It’s all about health and safety, while still offering live music.”

If subscribers have Sunday Centennial tickets, they have the option of going to the Adler or seeing the livestream. The individual livestream tickets are $40 per household. If subscribers switch to livestream, they could get a refund for the difference or donate it back, Baxter said.

The abridged programs (which still carry the same in-person ticket price) will be:

Oct. 3-4:

  • BEETHOVEN Coriolan Overture
  • JESSIE MONTGOMERY Banner
  • GEORGE WALKER Lyric for Strings
  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1

Nov. 7-8:

  • BARTÓK Divertimento for Strings
  • BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto, featuring Naha Greenholtz

Dec. 5-6:

  • BACH Keyboard Concerto No. 5, featuring Marian Lee
  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

Because of the reduced orchestra size, they’re focusing on more string-only music, Baxter said. Audiences will be spaced throughout the Adler, with everyone required to wear masks (with the option of removing them while seated). All musicians will be masked, with some differences likely for wind and brass players.

Violinist Naha Greenholtz and pianist Marian Lee perform Aug. 7 in a QCSO chamber concert at Galvin Fine Arts Center.

“At the moment, most people who come in person just want to come with their spouse or whoever they have their tickets with. They don’t want to sit near anyone else,” Baxter said. “It’s requiring a lot of patience and understanding on behalf of our subscribers, because we can’t guarantee your normal seat. We have to use the entire space of the theater, so we can fit as many people as we can but keep people distant.”

Among new protocols will be:

  • 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.

Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony has been substituted in the December concert, instead of the massive Mahler Symphony No. 1. “For each program, we’re trying to preserve the artistic vision of what we were going for,” Baxter said.

The QCSO joins the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

“Of course, Mahler did not write for small forces, so that wasn’t going to work out,” he said. “The Symphony No. 3, the Eroica, is a powerful, big piece, and that’s about the limit of the size orchestra we could do. It felt in line with that spirit.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many orchestras across the U.S. have canceled or changed their fall seasons. Among major groups scrapping all in-person concerts are the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic and St. Louis Symphony (replaced with digital programs).

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra through Dec. 31, 2020 will perform without a live audience and will be available to view on the ASO’s Virtual Stage as subscriber content. The programs will be comprised of smaller orchestral ensembles.

The Des Moines Symphony fall broadcasts (from the Temple for Performing Arts), featuring a reduced-size orchestra spaced appropriately to ensure musician safety, will include interviews and behind-the-scenes footage along with a live Q&A session with Maestro Joseph Giunta. No audience will be present; instead, performances will be livestreamed for at-home viewing.

Des Moines has scheduled Beethoven concerts at the Civic Center featuring the Violin Concerto in March 2021 and Ninth Symphony in April.

QCSO subscribers received an e-mail survey, to indicate their preference how they want to attend in the fall, Baxter said, noting the box office also is doing phone outreach to subscribers. Then, they can see what seats remain available to the general public.

“It’s quite a bit more limited,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to accommodate all the subscribers, but I can’t say for sure.”

The Live Stream will air Sundays at 2 p.m. via the QCSO’s Uscreen Channel. Digital access can be purchased for a single event or as part of a Pick-3 or Full Subscription. Only one ticket is needed per household, and are available at the following rates:

  • Single Digital Concert – $40 per concert
  • Digital Pick-3/Trio Subscription – $102 for all three concerts (15% savings)
  • As part of a Full Subscription – $96 for all threeconcerts (20% savings) + Additional In-Person subscription rate determined by seating zone.

While seating changes must be made in the fall to ensure social distancing, all 2020-21 full subscribers will be able to retain your previously chosen non-distanced seat into the 2021-22 Season.

If you choose to attend all Masterworks concerts in person, the QCSO Box Office staff will use your subscriber survey responses to assign you a socially distanced seat for the fall concerts. You will retain your previously chosen seat for the spring concerts.

If you choose to attend the fall concerts virtually, you can either receive a partial refund or donate the difference back to the QCSO. You will retain your previously chosen seat for the spring concerts.

The Signature Soiree and Riverfront Pops

Because of Covid, the QCSO annual Signature Soiree fundraiser Sept. 19 has moved from the Figge Art Museum to online, with a livestreamed performance featuring QCSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and QCSO principal cellist Hannah Holman. You can participate in a Live Auction and Paddle Raise in support of the QCSO’s music education programs, all hosted by Maestro Mark Russell Smith.

By purchasing tickets or joining the Virtual Soirée Host Committee, ticket holders will receive a three-course dinner, QCSO chocolates, and a flower arrangement – all delivered to their home. Tickets are $125 per person or $1,250 per group of 10.

The 7 p.m. livestream event will also be available to the public at no cost, and anyone can participate by donating or bidding on the live auction items.

“You do have to buy a ticket if you want the meal,” Baxter said. “For the week leading up to the event, we will have options open for people to give, so people can be bidding on the live auction items and donating to the Paddle Raise for the education program.

“In a way, we’re opening up the giving quite a bit more because it’s not just the people in the room who can participate,” he said. “I think that’s exciting; it’s very different for us.”

“With everything, we’re figuring it out as we go,” he said.

Ticket sales for Riverfront Pops, Sept. 12 at LeClaire Park, have been pretty solid and steady, Baxter said.

“There seems to be a lot of positive feedback about the way we’re doing group ticketing,”
he said. “People are asking us to keep doing it after Covid.”

The Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops was previously was scheduled for Arsenal Island (for the second time) on Aug. 15. The postponed show will still celebrate the music of Fleetwood Mac, and will close with the traditional rousing renditions of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” set to a brilliant fireworks display.

Among the changes for the concert are:

  • Ticket buyers will purchase a reserved plot of space in LeClaire Park as they would a seat at a concert venue. These plots are sized for groups of 10, 6, or 2 people, and are available in three price zones (from $42 to $282). Gates will open at 5 p.m. and attendees will not be admitted to the park until everyone in their group has arrived. There is no re-entry if guests choose to leave the park. A limited number of distanced seat pairs will be available in the permanent seats near the bandshell at $35 each.
  • Use of the plot map will significantly limit the total audience size. Groups should arrive together and not mingle with other groups attending. The ground will be marked to keep groups socially distanced for entry. Guests will exit as a group, and departure will be controlled to disperse group movement across the park and maintain social distancing.
  • Facial masks or coverings will be required for entry, exit, and to move about the common areas. Facial masks or coverings are strongly recommended but not required when attendees are in their seating plots. Disposable masks will be available for those who arrive without one.
  • Physical tickets will not be sold on site, and must be purchased in advance. Program booklets will only be available in a digital format, but will be available online if attendees wish to print their own copies. Guests may also request a print-out of the program be mailed to them for a $4 fee up to 14 days before the event
  • Guests are encouraged to bring their own food and beverages. There will be no on-site vendors. Those who choose to enjoy alcoholic beverages must drink responsibly.
  • Additional porta-potty locations including handwashing stations and hand sanitizer available. A map of the park with additional details will be released later in July.
  • Anyone who is experiencing symptoms or who has been in contact with someone experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath within 14 days of the event is expected to stay home.

The orchestra will be smaller with distanced seating, and facial masks will be required in certain areas for production staff and volunteers. Paraguayan conductor Ernesto Estigarribia – QCSO assistant conductor and Youth Ensembles Music Director – will lead this Riverfront Pops.

The Youth Orchestra opener has also been canceled this year. Given the surge in Covid cases, the SCHD and QCSO are working closely to carefully monitor the local situation. These plans will be subject to revision based on conditions as the date approaches.

For tickets and more information, visit qcso.org or call 563-322-7276.

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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.