Superstar violinist Hilary Hahn was on sabbatical for an entire year, from September 2019 to September 2020 -- and I don't know about you, but I've missed her performances!
This weekend she appears in her second live concert series since returning: performances of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Houston Symphony, conducted by Marin Alsop. (Her first was last week in Dallas.) Happily, if you are not in Houston, you can still watch the 8 p.m Central Saturday concert by streaming it on your computer for $20. Click here for tickets. (After all, we have to enjoy those opportunities that have opened up rather than closed down - before the pandemic this probably would not have been possible for those outside Houston!) Also on the program is Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 and Keyla Orozco’s "PerpetuumM."
Hilary will actually be playing for a live audience at Houston's Jones Hall, where audience capacity has been reduced from 2,912 to 450 for the shows, which occur Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Only the Saturday concert will be streamed.)
The Houston Symphony is one of the few major symphonies in the United States to return to performing in a hall for a live audience, and the organization, in consultation with medical experts at Houston Methodist Hospital, has devised a detailed list of safety protocols for each performance. Those include things such as temperature checks for everyone upon arrival at the hall, mandatory mask-wearing, increased cleaning, social distancing and 25 percent or less audience capacity.
"We began performing weekly via livestream in May, at first from the individual musicians’ homes, in a series we called the Living Room Series," said Houston Symphony spokesman Eric Skelly. "Then in July, we began livestreaming from the stage of our home theater, Jones Hall, which seats just over 2,900 at capacity. This is the 'Live From Jones Hall Series,' which we’re continuing throughout the entire 2020-2021 Season."
"We began meticulous planning over the summer to invite audiences back to the hall, and by the end of August we were inviting tiny audiences of staff and major donors," Skelly said. "When we opened the 2020-2021 season in September, we obtained the permit from the mayor’s office to invite a small audience of 150 -- comprising full-season subscribers -- per performance. It went so well, we were able to get a permit to increase the audience size, so that for November and December, we’re able to increase to 450 per performance. That enables us to put single tickets on sale to the general public again. With annual favorites like 'A Very Merry POPS,' we’re able to add performances to accommodate audience demand."
Skelly said that audiences have responded well and that several weeks ago, a patron who is an infectious disease specialist even gave the symphony good marks for its safety measures, posting "Well done!" on social media.
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