ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Orchestra will kick off its 53rd season with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, conducted by Music Director Michael Francis, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at The Duke Energy Center for the Arts-Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg.
For tickets and information, visit FloridaOrchestra.org.
The organization has reimagined its fall season, focusing on ways to bring the comfort and joy of live classical music back to Tampa Bay while maintaining health and safety as the top priority. In addition to in-person concerts, TFO will live-stream video for free so everyone has access to performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help offset lower ticket revenue and keep the orchestra strong for the 2020-21 season, musicians and staff will take a one-year 20% salary reduction while retaining full health care benefits.
“It’s a crazy, complicated puzzle to make next season work, but we’re tackling it with a strong team thanks to the unwavering support of our community,” said Mark Cantrell, TFO president and chief executive. “We are grateful to everyone who has continued to make contributions, including so many patrons who donated back their unused tickets from last season. TFO’s board of directors have stood by our musicians and staff because they know this orchestra will play an important role in helping our community heal. We must take these steps for safety and financial stability now to ensure a brighter future.”
Francis has redesigned the season in phases for maximum safety. In Phase 1, the orchestra is determined to offer more, not less. By dividing musicians into smaller ensembles of 20-40 players, patrons will have more concerts, more music and more variety to choose from. The result is an expansion of the premier Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series to include exciting new Soundwaves concerts, which explore a wide range of music and composers. Overall, concerts will be shorter with no intermission. Some weekends will offer five performances over two days, all with limited audiences exclusively at The Duke Energy Center for the Arts-Mahaffey Theater, a cultural jewel along St. Petersburg’s waterfront.
“By expanding our Masterworks series to include our wonderful new Soundwaves concerts, I’m thrilled to share an amazing kaleidoscope of sounds and colors. We’ll feature works we don’t often get the chance to perform, such as Jessie Montgomery’s Strum and Joseph Schwantner’s Percussion Concerto, along with beloved classics from Beethoven and Mozart,” said Maestro Francis. “You will not be disappointed by the outstanding music.”
For full flexibility, the orchestra is announcing a revised concert schedule with new dates and repertoire only through the end of the year for the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks, Raymond James Pops and Coffee series. Highlights include Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Ragtime Kings with Byron Stripling, the annual Holiday Pops and a Classical Christmas, along with music from a variety of composers, from George Gershwin and Aaron Copland to George Walker and Joan Tower.
The orchestra is making the most of its revised season to feature more of its own virtuoso musicians. Phase 1 features Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer on a concert of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi, Principal Bassoon Joshua Baker performing a work of Piazzolla, Principal Flute Clay Ellerbroek and Principal Harp Anna Kate Mackle in Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp, and Principal Percussion John Shaw on Joseph Schwantner’s Percussion Concerto (wind ensemble version).
“Can you imagine how inspiring it will be when we’re together in the concert hall once again? When the orchestra plays those first notes on stage, it will be such an incredibly powerful and emotional moment. We can’t wait to share that with you,” said Francis, who is entering his sixth season with TFO. “Whether you’re with us in person or streaming our concert live in your living room with Beethoven blasting from your TV, The Florida Orchestra will be your haven for reflection, inspiration and, of course, celebration in Tampa Bay and beyond.”
Phase 1 will have limited, spaced seating for the safety of patrons. TFO will accommodate season ticketholders first, and any remaining tickets will go on sale Oct. 12. TFO’s free Pops in the Park concert, which draws nearly 20,000 to Vinoy Park every fall, is postponed until the spring.
The Florida Orchestra last performed March 8, when Francis conducted Joyce Yang on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. However, TFO musicians and staff have kept the music and the mission going with more than 120 performance and education videos, radio broadcasts and blog posts in the TFO at Home series at FloridaOrchestra.org.
To keep each other healthy and safe, a team of TFO board members, musicians and staff is working in conjunction with the Mahaffey Theater to implement strict safety protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines. More details will be available soon and posted at FloridaOrchestra.org.