ST. PETERSBURG — One year after the coronavirus brought our world to a standstill, The Florida Orchestra has hit a milestone filled with hope: TFO has now performed more than 50 concerts for live audiences at the Mahaffey Theater since October, all following CDC guidelines for health and safety.
To pause and reflect as the Tampa Bay community continues to heal, the orchestra will perform “Serenity,” a concert instilled with precious moments of beauty and peace, set for Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14, with Michael Francis, music director, conducting.
“We have experienced 12 months unlike anything before,” Francis said. “As we move forward together with optimism, we wanted to curate an event that gives our community a chance to pause and reflect. This ‘Serenity’ concert is a haven: a serene musical space for peace, beauty and contemplation.”
The Tampa Bay Times Masterworks Serenity concert features Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most recognizable pieces in the world. Famously featured at the funeral of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, as well as the 1986 film “Platoon,” it simultaneously evokes both sadness and hope. Francis will begin the concert with Ahmed Alabaca’s “Across the Calm Waters of Heaven – A Piece for Peace,” written after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in 2015, that “captures the inextinguishable spark of human goodness.” Also on the program are Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto for Oboe No. 2 featuring soloist Mitchell Kuhn; “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and Anton Bruckner’s Christus factus est, adapted for low brass by Ross Holcombe.
Performances will be presented Saturday, March 13, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 14, 2 p.m., at the Duke Energy Center for the Arts — Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg.
Tickets start at $23 and are on sale now. Visit floridaorchestra.org.
From the safety of home, anyone can watch the “Serenity” concert via livestream March 13 at 8 p.m. It’s free and easy to register at FloridaOrchestra.org/livestreams.
In a separate Soundwaves concert on the same weekend, the orchestra’s premier winds will perform Mozart’s Gran Partita, one of the most beautiful and poignant serenades in all classical music. Performances are 5 p.m. on March 13 and 14.
“Considering a year ago we had no idea when we’d be able to perform live again, this 50-concert milestone is an amazing feat — especially as many orchestras across the nation remain dark,” said Mark Cantrell, TFO president and chief executive. “We owe so much of our success to the unwavering support of our Tampa Bay community, the passionate dedication of Maestro Francis and the musicians, our strong board of directors, and tireless staff. We still have a full slate of concerts in this remarkable season that will continue to bring comfort, joy and healing to Tampa Bay and beyond.”
An artistic gem in Tampa Bay for 53 years, the orchestra returned to the stage for in-person audiences on Oct. 31 after an eight-month hiatus. In a unique approach to the season, TFO added Soundwaves concerts, the result of Francis splitting the orchestra into two smaller ensembles for safety. The silver lining: twice the music, including works TFO doesn’t often get the chance to perform. TFO also began to offer select concerts for free via livestream and on demand. So far, more than 21,000 screens across the country have tuned in.
The 2020-21 season continues through May. Highlights of the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series include Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Jeffrey Multer, Dvorak’s New World Symphony with guest conductor Thomas Wilkins, and a one-of-a-kind Soundwaves concert featuring TFO Percussion. Highlights of the Raymond James Pops series include Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue performed by Stuart Malina and Fly Me to the Moon featuring Charles Lazarus on trumpet. The morning Coffee series explores music by Beethoven, Mozart, Prokofiev and more.
To keep each other healthy and safe, all concerts follow CDC guidelines, including mandatory face masks, spaced seating in pairs and extensive testing for musicians.