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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Michael Francis of The Florida Orchestra

Bill DeYoung



If there’s one positive takeaway from the enormity of all the Covid-caused cancellations, Michael Francis said on Tuesday’s edition of The Catalyst Sessions, it might be the end of that old “Are the arts really necessary?” argument.

“Can you imagine being isolated right now without the arts?” asked the Florida Orchestra’s music director, conductor and public face. “Without TV, without music, without books? Without all these things? That’s the arts, right there. These are the things that are keeping us connected to the rest of the world. Keeping us sane. Keeping us stimulated, and keeping us learning and growing. And increasingly empathetic.

“So this idea that we are peripheral is rather nonsensical. And I hope that this time has shown everybody that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

Gone as of mid-March: The last two scheduled months, plus change, of the orchestra’s 51st season.

“We’ve canceled until May 10, so we’re still hoping, of course optimistically, that we’ll still get something in at the end of the season,” Francis explained. “Our season finishes around May 31st, so in some ways it’s a little easier for us than it is for orchestras who go 52 weeks, but it’s still, above all, heartbreaking that we can’t bring this wonderful music.”

If indeed it was the end of the season, the March 8 concert with pianist Joyce Yang soloing on the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, was one for the record books, according to Francis.

“That concert was just such a fantastic one. I really felt we were on the crest of a wave and flowing right through at a really high level. So to suddenly have that taken away, we all feel a little bereft of music-making.”

To stay as connected as possible, the organization has launched TFO at Home, a collection of isolation-made musician videos, blog posts and links to the weekly broadcasts of recorded TFO shows from the last two seasons.

They air at 7 p.m. Thursdays on WSMR, with either Francis or associate conductor Daniel Black preceding each with a fresh five or 10-minute overview.

“So we’re trying to sort of re-create the concert experience – although we all know there’s nothing like the concert experience,” Francis says.

For the time being, the Maestro is safe at home with his wife and daughter, and busily making plans for the orchestra – plans that by necessity change day by day, hour by hour.

And he’s letting his beard grow. “I’ll be clean-shaven on my first concert,” he promises. “I’m not going to shave until then.

“I’ll look like Gandalf in a few weeks, I’m sure.”













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