By Eric Dundon
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, performing arts have developed new and exciting ways to connect with their audiences. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is no exception.
The SLSO and Music Director Stéphane Denève have thought creatively about how to provide thrilling musical experiences the orchestra is known for even though live concerts are on hold. Denève and the SLSO recently announced their plans for a reimagined fall 2020 season.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, previously planned live concerts through December are being replaced with digital programming and smaller live performances as conditions safely permit. The SLSO will gradually phase in live concerts and events as conditions permit and will announce details for these programs as soon as they are confirmed. The annual concert in Forest Park, the SLSO’s celebratory season-opening concert, has been postponed to spring 2021.
The reimagined season will still focus on Denève’s original vision for the season: sparking dialogue, elevating and celebrating the diversity of voices in classical music, and highlighting creative storytelling.
“One piece we were set to perform this fall was Haydn’s Symphony No. 64, ‘Tempora Mutantur.’ Translated, this means ‘The times are changed. We are also changed with them.’ Never has that idea been more meaningful and relevant than today,” Denève said. “While we face these challenging and uncertain times, music builds bridges, sparks dialogue, provides comfort and peace, and inspires us to take action.”
The SLSO’s digital portfolio for the fall season will include:
Weekly rebroadcasts of prior concerts, Saturday nights on St. Louis Public Radio. Previously, these broadcasts would take place during live concerts only. Now, broadcasts will take place every Saturday night throughout the year. Listen online or on air at 90.7 KWMU at 8:00pm.
Monthly televised broadcasts of previous SLSO concerts take place the first Sunday of every month on Nine PBS at 5:00pm.
SLSO Stories, the orchestra’s digital magazine, which is updated regularly with videos, photos, and text stories to give the audience an immersive experience of the orchestra. Launched in 2019, and more than 32,000 people have used the site to learn about the SLSO’s activities at Powell Hall, backstage, and in the community.
Episodic digital video series framed around Stéphane’s vision for the season. The first, Songs of America, explores and elevates voices in American music in collaboration with St. Louis artists and venues. Launched the week of July 4, Songs of America reached 250,000 people around the country in its first month, and will continue throughout the season.
A new podcast produced in collaboration with Classic 107.3, The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis. Called SLSO Soundbites, the podcast will present one-on-one conversations with host John Clare and Denève, SLSO musicians, and other artistic collaborators. The podcast episodes will focus on how the music we perform fits in to today’s world. These 30-minute episodes will be available on demand on Spotify, Soundcloud, SLSO Stories, and more.
An expanded portfolio of online events. These events draw our patrons closer to the SLSO through monthly Lunch and Learns, a panel discussion about different topics; monthly Coffee Talks with Musician events for donors; and Whitaker Zoom Happy Hours for subscribers and donors prior to St. Louis Public Radio rebroadcasts.
Music Education Resources. The SLSO’s Education team has worked tirelessly to provide At-Home Resources and activities for every member of the family. Check them out here.
Instrument Playground Online. This multimedia online experience allows people to learn about the instruments of the orchestra and the musicians who play them, presented by PNC Arts Alive. Explore the IPO here.
While the start of the season will primarily focus on digital content, the SLSO will phase in live, in-person events as local pandemic conditions improve. The SLSO remains committed to providing a safe environment when live events can resume and will communicate all health and safety protocols and procedures as live programming is announced. “We are committed to sharing powerful musical experiences while carefully managing a safe return to Powell Hall,” said SLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard. “We value the trust our audiences and community invests in us and promise to take very good care of them.”
The SLSO developed concert and building procedures in partnership with a team of infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists affiliated with the Washington University School of Medicine and in coordination with other St. Louis venues, following the latest guidelines from St. Louis City and County. The SLSO is deeply grateful to Dr. Abigail Carlson and her team for their expertise and counsel in evaluating plans and protocols to ensure the safety of musicians, staff, and audience members. The SLSO also surveyed audience members about their expectations and comfort level for attending live events.
Information for subscribers
The SLSO is grateful to subscribers for the extraordinary dedication and support demonstrated during these unprecedented times.
For subscribers, the value of fall tickets will remain on account to use before December 31, 2021, either for spring concerts or a future subscription. Subscribers can donate the value of their fall tickets to the SLSO to help support the SLSO’s musical mission or request a refund. Please call the Box Office at 314-534-1700 Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 3:00pm, or complete your request online at slso.org/fall2020.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO's Public Relations Manager.