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The Florida Orchestra unveils upcoming socially-distanced season

Bill DeYoung

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Michael Francis. Photo provided.

The Florida’s Orchestra’s music director Michael Francis has been in Germany for the past couple of months, conducting his “other group,” the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.

Performances there have been socially distanced, resulting in much smaller audiences than the musicians – and their leader – are used to.

It’s been a European dry run for the 2020-2021 Florida Orchestra season, which will begin Oct. 31. The new concerts, all taking place in the Mahaffey Theater, will be played by smaller musical configurations, for audiences at 25 percent capacity.

The German performances, Francis said in a Tuesday-morning phone interview, have been extraordinary.

“There was no less intensity from the audience,” he enthused. “As musicians you ‘feel’ an audience, you feel how much they are into the music. How connected they are. And they were maybe more intensely listening, because they knew what they could have lost. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. This is a truism.

“So I would say that yes, there were less people, but in some ways it was a more intense experience.”

Orchestra CEO Mark Cantrell reported $450,000 in Covid-loss ticket revenue that patrons converted into donations at the end of the 2019-2020 season. That, explained Francis, is an indicator of how much a part of the community the Florida Orchestra has become.

“What this entire shutdown has shown us is how loved the orchestra is,” he said. “Just see how the community’s embraced it … you just sense that Covid has not broken our bond. In fact, in some ways it’s strengthened it. I think people are really looking forward to the concerts. There’s a huge buzz about them.

“And for those who can’t come to the concerts, for whatever reason, they will be able to have the concerts streamed onto their television, not just their computer.”

Many of the Masterworks concerts will include a live-streaming option. New for this season is “Soundwaves,” a series of concerts spotlighting newer of lesser-known classical works.

Twenty-five percent capacity at the Mahaffey is approximately 500 seats. Each concert will be repeated several times at the venue to accommodate more patrons. The musicians will be spaced apart onstage.

Face coverings will be required for all guests, musicians and staff. Concerts will be shorter, about 75 minutes, with no intermission.

To help offset lower ticket revenue, musicians and staff will take a one-year 20 percent salary reduction while retaining full health care benefits.

“So we’re covering all the bases,” Francis explained. “And the key for us is safety, for our musicians and our staff, and for our audiences as well, and there’s been huge amounts of conversations with everybody to make sure that we’re doing our very, very best to have as safe an environment as possible.”

It’s awkward, Francis, Cantrell and their team know. But putting music in the air again – whatever it takes – is worth it.

“I’m one of life’s optimists,” said Francis. “We’re gonna get through Covid. You couldn’t walk in Britain a year and a half ago without hearing the word Brexit. You don’t even hear that word any more. And I think maybe in six months’ time, Covid will be ‘that thing that happened in 2020.’

“We’re keeping an eye on the big picture here, making sure that we do everything we can – and provide fantastic music. There’s so much great music.

“We want to be an organization that says ‘This is happening. Right. Deal with it, let’s make the best, we’ve got people who really need to hear this music. We want to serve them.”

TFO will accommodate season ticketholders first. Any remaining tickets will go on sale Oct. 12.

SEASON 53 (PHASE 1):

TAMPA BAY TIMES MASTERWORKS
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7
Michael Francis, conductor
Jessie Montgomery: Strum

Zoltan Kodaly: Dances from Galanta
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

Sat, Oct 31, 2 pm
Sat, Oct 31, 8 pm – OR FREE LIVE STREAM at FloridaOrchestra.org
Sun, Nov 1, 2 pm

MASTERWORKS: SOUNDWAVES
Legends from the Americas
Michael Francis, conductor
Joshua Baker, bassoon
Joplin: The Entertainer
Piazzolla: Serie del angel
Arturo Marquez: Danzon No. 4
Copland: Appalachian Spring (original version for 13 players)

Sat, Oct 31, 5 pm
Sun, Nov 1, 5 pm

RAYMOND JAMES POPS
Ragtime Kings
Byron Stripling, conductor and trumpet

Sat, Nov 7, 2 pm
Sat, Nov 7, 8 pm – OR FREE LIVE STREAM at FloridaOrchestra.org
Sun, Nov 8, 2 pm

TAMPA BAY TIMES MASTERWORKS
Mozart’s Symphony No. 40
Stuart Malina, conductor
Clay Ellerbroek, flute
Anna Kate Mackle, harp
Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp
Mozart: Symphony No. 40

Sat, Nov 14, 2 pm
Sat, Nov 14, 8 pm – OR FREE LIVE STREAM at FloridaOrchestra.org
Sun, Nov 15, 2 pm

MASTERWORKS: SOUNDWAVES
Brass with a Beat
Daniel Black, conductor
Jim Parker: A Londoner in New York
Bach: Sinfonia
Jan Koestier: Symphony for Brass
Gabrieli: Canzon
Gershwin: An American in Paris

Sat, Nov 14, 5 pm
Sun, Nov 15, 5 pm

TAMPA BAY TIMES MASTERWORKS
Tchaikovsky & Vivaldi for Strings
Jeffrey Multer, leader & violin
Nancy Chang, violin
Vivek Jayaraman, violin
Sarah Shellman, violin
Osvaldo Golijov: Last Round
Vivaldi: Concerto for Four Violins
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Sat, Dec 5, 2 pm
Sat, Dec 5, 8 pm – OR FREE LIVE STREAM at FloridaOrchestra.org
Sun, Dec 6, 2 pm

MASTERWORKS: SOUNDWAVES
American Heroes
Michael Francis, conductor
John Shaw, percussion
Adolphus Hailstork: American Fanfare
Joan Tower: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1
Steven Stucky: Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary

Joseph Schwantner: Percussion Concerto (wind ensemble version)
Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

Sat, Dec 5, 5 pm
Sun, Dec 6, 5 pm

RAYMOND JAMES POPS
Holiday Pops
Enrico Lopez-Yañez, conductor

Fri, Dec 11, 8 pm
Sat, Dec 12, 2 pm & 8 pm
Sun, Dec 13, 2 pm & 7:30 pm

COFFEE CONCERT
Classical Christmas
Daniel Black, conductor
Music to celebrate the season from history’s greatest composers including Mozart, Handel and
Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

Wed, Dec 16, 11 am
Thu, Dec 17, 11 am
Encore performances:
Sun, Dec 20, 2 pm
Sun, Dec 20, 5 pm – OR FREE LIVE STREAM at FloridaOrchestra.org

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