It’s fitting that the last Quad City Symphony Orchestra performance before the Covid shutdown was Verdi’s Requiem, a piece written in memory of a dear friend. The first Masterworks program to welcome a full-capacity audience since then (Oct. 2-3, 2021) will feature the classic Dvorak “New World” Symphony. It’s a whole new world for sure, as the pandemic lingers on.

This weekend’s concerts – featuring world-renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson performing Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto – will also include

Quad City Symphony Orchestra Returns To Welcome A Full Audience This Weekend

Mark Russell Smith is music director and conductor of the Quad City Symphony.

a Sunday afternoon in Centennial Hall (at Augustana College in Rock Island) for the first time since March 2020.

“It just made sense for us to do the whole season in the same manner, so we just did everything at the Adler,” executive director Brian Baxter said recently of the 2020-21 season in downtown Davenport. During this time half the concerts were performed without an audience and all were offered online for up to 30 days following.

Conductor and music director Mark Russell Smith said he and the orchestra are excited to return without audience capacity limits.

“To have people clapping and to turn around and not play in an empty hall, it’s very exciting,” Smith said. “Absolutely, with a potential full house and a lot more people, the energy is going to be really great. It’s going to be an electric evening, I really think so. People who will be there will be thrilled. I’m pretty confident. That’s the question – when are people going to feel comfortable coming out? It’s anybody’s guess. We’re hoping it’s sooner rather than later.”

The first concert, they purposely wanted “to start with a big bang,” Smith said. “And with one of the greatest pianists on Earth.”

The first Masterworks concerts of the 107th season will be Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 3 at 2 p.m., featuring acclaimed piano soloist Garrick Ohlsson. The program will be comprised of Dudley Buck’s Festival Overture on the American National Air, Barber’s Piano Concerto, Op. 38, and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, Op. 95, “From the New World.”

From the orchestra’s point of view, Smith and the musicians still gave their all in concerts where there were no audiences at the 2,400-seat Adler Theatre.

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“Without question, the energy was there,” Smith said. “When there’s no audience, you’re focusing on each other. You’re focusing on each other no matter what. But part of the reason was, this was one of the few orchestras that were actually playing.”

“So much of their work was gone, so this time we had together was very special,” Smith said of the QCSO freelance players. “It was even more special because they were able to be the artists that they were when they were denied that opportunity in so many other arenas. And it was a

Quad City Symphony Orchestra Returns To Welcome A Full Audience This Weekend

Brian Baxter is executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.

reminder about how valuable art is – if souls needed touching, last year was the year when souls needed touching, on so many levels.

“To be able to commune with others, to commune with great art, and to bring beauty into a world that was pretty damn ugly, I think it was very special,” Smith said. “It gave us energy and also emboldened us, really, to think about how important it is – what we do, and to recommit ourselves to that.”

The digital access also literally made the QCSO concerts more accessible to a much greater population (outside the Q-C) than who’d ever been able to attend the concerts. Smith said his twin sisters in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., and his nephews and nieces who never saw him conduct before could watch online. “Really cool things like that, that never would have happened before,” he said.

After this weekend, the new season schedule (not including chamber music concerts) includes:

Nov. 6-7:

ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK Prelude to Hänsel und GretelMICHAEL ABELS Frederick’s FablesWILLIAM GRANT STILL Poem for OrchestraPYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo & Juliet, Fantasy-Overture

Nov. 20 (2 and 7:30 p.m.):

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in Concert

Dec. 4-5:

EDWARD ELGAR Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 RICHARD STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 BENJAMIN BRITTEN Serenade for Tenor, Horn, & Strings WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Symphony No. 36, K. 425 “Linz”

Feb. 6-7, 2022:

ANTON BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8

Feb. 12:

Living Proof Exhibit Opera: “Karkinos” by Jacob Bancks

March 5-6:

CHEN YI Duo Ye  WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Violin Concerto No. 4, K. 218  ROBERT SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2, Op. 61

April 2-3:

JOHANN STRAUSS JR. Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410 “Voices of Spring”JENNIFER HIGDON Viola ConcertoSAMUEL BARBER Symphony No. 1, Op. 9OTTORINO RESPIGHI Pines of Rome

May 14:

Disney’s “Frozen” in Concert

The QCSO may offer digital access this season, but Baxter isn’t sure which ones and how many concerts. “We were really proud of that product. I mean, I think they looked and sounded really good,” he said.

All QCSO musicians, staff and volunteers have been fully vaccinated against Covid, and all audiences will be required to wear face masks, regardless of vaccination status. Facial coverings will be required for all indoor QCSO concerts as long as community transmission remains substantial or high in both or either Scott and Rock Island counties, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Once both counties’ transmission rates become moderate or low, masks will be optional for vaccinated individuals and strongly recommended for unvaccinated people.

For tickets and more information, visit www.qcso.org.

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Quad City Symphony Orchestra Returns To Welcome A Full Audience This Weekend
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.