ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Orchestra recently announced a slate of concerts in January as it continues to roll out its reimagined 2020-21 season in phases. All January concerts — 16 performances of six programs — will be conducted exclusively by Michael Francis, TFO music director, at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg.
TFO will be following strict CDC guidelines for health and safety. In addition to in-person concerts, TFO will continue to offer live-stream and on-demand video for free so everyone has access to the music during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After nearly eight months, Maestro Michael Francis and the Florida Orchestra made a triumphant return to the stage in October,” said Mark Cantrell, TFO president and chief executive. “So many of you were right there with us, cheering us on from your seat at the Mahaffey Theater — or the couch in your living room for our first-ever live stream. From all of us at the Florida Orchestra, thank you for your enthusiastic support of our most unique season yet. Yes, the concert experience is different, but the music is more powerful than ever.”
The Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series continues in January with Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony on a program that features TFO violinists Nancy Chang and Sarah Shellman for Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini concert spotlights virtuoso guest pianist Natasha Paremski, and also includes artwork by TFO visual artist-in-residence Geff Strik for Ravel’s Mother Goose Ballet. The New Year’s in Vienna concert will have performances in both the Raymond James Pops and Coffee series.
The orchestra is offering two new Masterworks: Soundwaves programs in January on the same weekends as traditional Masterworks programs. Why offer five concerts in one weekend? It’s the result of Francis splitting the orchestra into two smaller ensembles of 20-40 players for greater spacing onstage. The silver lining: twice the music, including works TFO doesn’t often get the chance to perform. For example, The Intimate Mahler: Symphony No. 4, set for Jan. 30 and 31, offers a stellar version of Mahler’s most intimate symphony, arranged for an ensemble of just 14 players.
All health and safety measures will continue for Phase 2 concerts in January, including mandatory face masks that cover the nose and mouth, spaced seating in pairs, extensive testing for musicians and frequent sanitizing of equipment and seats. Concerts will be shorter with no intermission only at the Duke Energy Center for the Arts/Mahaffey Theater with 25% capacity. The protocols developed in conjunction with the Mahaffey Theater have worked so well that TFO believes this is the best way to provide maximum safety during the pandemic. The orchestra hopes to expand to other venues later in the season, depending on the virus.
For full flexibility, the orchestra is announcing its 53rd season in phases. Phase 1 runs through the end of December. Phase 2 encompasses January concerts only and will have limited, spaced seating for the safety of patrons. TFO will accommodate season ticketholders first, and any remaining tickets will go on sale Dec. 21. Look for an announcement of Phase 3 concerts in January.
Free live-streaming concerts also are available. From the safety of home, anyone can watch select concerts via live stream or on demand. It’s free and easy to register. For details, visit FloridaOrchestra.org/livestreams. So far, about 10,000 screens across the country have tuned in to just the first four concerts. To support this new service, TFO is encouraging donations so we can continue to offer digital concerts with no barriers during the pandemic and beyond. For Phase 2, the following three concerts will be available for viewing on any device:
• Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, Saturday, Jan. 9, 8 p.m.
• Rachmaninoff on Paganini, Saturday, Jan. 23, 8 p.m.
• Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m.
TFO to debut on WEDU
The Florida Orchestra will have its premiere broadcast on WEDU-PBS with Inside Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, recorded live at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. The broadcast — set for Friday, Dec. 18, at 9 p.m. — will feature insight from Michael Francis, TFO music director, and a full performance of the symphony in honor of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth this month. Funding for the program is provided by William and Suzanne Garth, Charlene and Mardy Gordon, Barry and Judith Alpert and Family, and the Hough Family Foundation.