Around Colorado, temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing, and the Colorado Symphony continues to #PlayOn, amid a constantly evolving and ever-changing landscape. An eventful autumn culminated in the organization receiving a special variance for no-audience concert rehearsals and recordings indoors at Boettcher Concert Hall. This variance was achieved through the tireless efforts from Colorado Symphony Association (CSA) staff and musicians to overcome the hurdles to once again safely perform together.
These efforts led to the unveiling of Virtual Stage — the CSA’s new digital content portal — and a host of exciting news endeavors including the announcement of a virtual Latin Beats collaboration in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center and Telemundo Denver, curation and capture of A Virtual Colorado Christmas – to be debuted in mid-December, and recordings of educational content and curriculum creation for distribution to Colorado’s educators and youth.
Sadly, these announcements also coincided with the revelation that previously scheduled Colorado Symphony concerts in Boettcher Concert Hall through May 30, 2021 had been cancelled or rescheduled until the 2021/22 Season.
This announcement wouldn’t dampen spirits across the organization, however, as the orchestra was finally able to begin limited work inside Boettcher Concert Hall for the first time since March. Through the development of extensive COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the orchestra was permitted to resume limited operations in Boettcher Concert Hall without patrons, allowing the orchestra to rehearse, perform, and record content to support a pivot in its mission to bring music to audiences, digitally.
The chance to perform alongside their colleagues again, albeit at an increased distance, brought forth a flood of emotions from musicians, stagehands, and staff alike.
“I was so happy to return to the Boettcher stage on November 12 for the first time in 8 months,” said Peter Cooper, Principal Oboe. “Even though our chairs were spaced out at 12 feet intervals in the woodwinds, it was still the place that has been my professional home for 27 years. When we began playing the Siegfried Idyll by Wagner, a sense of joy and “rightness” washed over me. This piece is exquisitely beautiful and at that moment there was nothing I would have rather done than play it. I was struck that for all the illness and heartbreak and difficulties of 2020, music has not lost its power to heal and thrill and provide solace to those lucky enough to hear it. I very much hope we can perform for live audiences again in the not-too-distant future. It will give us all hope that better things are coming.”
“It is a difficult task to describe in words — which is precisely why we need music and poetry —what it felt like to be back on stage hearing the collective sounds produced by real live humans after 8 months of silence,” said Yumi Hwang-Williams, Colorado Symphony Concertmaster. “Of course, we have had some activity in smaller forces, but now we had grown, not to our usual size, but one that resembles an orchestra. Contending with added distances with the woodwinds 12 feet apart, single stand strings 6 feet apart, and the brass actually playing from the choir loft, I struggled with finding my own sound within the whole and hearing what I needed to. But the collective professionalism and will power to play together carried us away into the music. Time stood still for us as we created our own time. THIS is what we all have been missing, players and audiences alike. Although there were many layers of emotions due the challenges of our time, I was left mostly with feelings of pure gratitude and joy for being back together and looking forward to the next time.”
The ability to resume restricted operations in the hall and to record new content were only possible through the tireless efforts of Colorado Symphony staff and musicians, as well as the guidance of top health officials and city and state officials including the Governor’s Office, Denver Arts & Venues, the Denver and Colorado Departments of Public Health and Environment, and University of Colorado Health (UCHealth).
These efforts are only the latest example of the Colorado Symphony going above and beyond to #PlayOn despite the continued disruption of the pandemic on normal operations, efforts that haven’t gone unnoticed by grateful members of the community. In particular, members of the Butler Family Fund have witnessed the tenacity exhibited by the CSA, exceeding any rational expectations for continued operations, performance, and fundraising despite severe restrictions on performance capabilities.
That includes the incredibly successful #PlayOn campaign, which spurred the creation of over 80 original videos from Colorado Symphony musicians that were shared on social media and across the country though media outlets like ABC’s Nightline, NBC’s Today Show, the Washington Post, and more.
The Colorado Symphony also held nearly 30 in person, limited capacity, and socially distanced concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Denver Performing Arts Center (DPAC) Galleria this summer, becoming the first performing arts organization in Denver to do so.
Community support has been vital in allowing the Colorado Symphony to continue producing new and engaging content, and since July 1 nearly $150,000 in donations have been received through the Play On Recovery Fund, with almost $80,000 coming from ticket donations.
With new COVID-19 cases again on the rise, the likelihood of new and more pervasive restrictions has become a distinct possibility, which only increases the necessity for donations and individual giving to help the CSA weather oncoming challenges.
As the Colorado Symphony continues to innovate and adapt to the momentous challenges presented by COVID-19, rest assured that the musicians and staff are working tirelessly to bring the warmth, comfort, and joy of music into homes across the state during the coming winter months. During this season of giving, please consider a gift to the Play On Recovery Fund. Together, we will #PlayOn.