Ensembles global update?

August 20, 2021, 12:31 AM · Hi all,

Just wondering what the state of music ensembles is around the world?

Here in Australia, we're going through some severe lockdowns in preparation for a vaccination target that will hopefully mean a more social life.

I'd greatly appreciate any updates on what ensemble playing / opportunities looks like in your part of the world. (Both for you as players and audience members)

Replies (11)

August 20, 2021, 2:30 AM · some years ago during summer I played about 10 live ensemble concerts in my zone(latina-Italy). this year and last one I played two times....
August 20, 2021, 9:34 AM · I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have not played music in ensemble since March 10, 2020 (well-actually my chamber orchestra got together for one rehearsal on July 8, 2021 when our rehearsal space restrictions were eased temporarily just prior to the attack of the Delta variant). For 10 years I had been playing weekly in a chamber orchestra (drawing players from communities all over the area). I also played every 2 to 4 weeks before the pandemic in a smaller string ensemble ranging from Serenades (13) to quartets (4), depending on who of our select number could get there. Since the pandemic started the chamber orchestra has had weekly ZOOM meetings of some members just to keep in touch verbally and visually - not musically. The smaller ensemble has maintained limited contact by email and plans to play clarinet quintets soon with a visitor from the UK on August 27 and September 20. The chamber orchestra plans a ZOOM meeting in late September to discuss the future (our weekly ZOOMs were stopped after the July 8 rehearsal).

Part of the problem has been the health-safety restrictions currently imposed by controllers of the available spaces large enough for a 30-member orchestra. Another has been the potential problems of sharing indoor space with wind players.

All members of both groups have been fully vaccinated.

August 20, 2021, 11:40 AM · I live in southwestern Virginia, about a 5-hour drive southeast of Washington DC. Our regional orchestra, The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, has rolled out a full concert schedule complete with soloists, pops concerts, masterworks series, etc. The conductor (a wonderfully dedicated, creative, and thoroughly musical individual) is celebrating a milestone year with the group. I'll be going to a few of their shows this year.
August 20, 2021, 12:01 PM · I also live the San Francisco Bay Area. When I moved here early this summer I hoped chamber music would be possible soon. It does not look good. The dismal result of the vaccination campaign and the delta variant have combined to make the situation dire enough that I don't see ensemble playing (as well as many other activities) before spring next year. We know already that the winter will be worse than the summer and the current wave is still on the way up.
August 20, 2021, 1:22 PM · I live in Bethesda, MD. My community orch has not met since March 2020. However, I recently joined a string quartet of fully vaccinated folks, and we meet every other week. I also have another small chamber group of fully vaccinated folks (a pianist, a clarinetist and me, the violist), but we have not met since the beginning of the pandemic, although I think we might come September. I think people in the group are still trying to evaluate risk since the clarinetist could turn it into a spreader event if she were ill.
August 20, 2021, 3:16 PM · Apropos - I think this quotation from yesterday's email sent by our British clarinetist (I referenced above) is appropriate.:
"I have some do it yourself tests" (i.e., COVID19 tests) "which are just like the PCR ones except read by oneself instead of a lab and the NHS was encouraging us all to get as many packs of them as we needed. So will do one a couple of days after my flight."

Hooray for the NHS!

August 20, 2021, 3:39 PM · Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA here. Since March 2020, the only larger ensemble performances (chamber orchestra) I've been involved with have been recorded for streaming content, with one exception. I played with the NM Philharmonic, full symphony, for their annual July 4 concert, outdoors, at the dedication of a new park and concert venue. All musicians that could be were masked. I have some performances scheduled for the fall with the San Juan Symphony (slightly cut down), and just got the notice today that vaccination will be required to participate. And masks will be required also.

I've been quite busy this summer with small ensembles like trios and quartets for weddings, mostly outdoors. Locally here the Santa Fe Opera is doing a full season - it is a semi-outdoor venue. Pit musicians were masked - I don't know about vaccine requirements. They had plexiglass in the pit, separating the winds from the strings. The audience were required to wear masks, and there was some distancing set up in the seating (groups and pairs separated by empty seats).

Edited: August 20, 2021, 3:54 PM · Bethesda, MD here too (just outside DC).

My regular quartet is back to performance preparation, although the question of concert venues this fall is an open question.

We've been playing unmasked in our normal config, but we are now going to spreading ourselves out in the room and masking.

My community orchestra has been meeting weekly outdoors. We gave one concert this summer and have a season planned.

August 20, 2021, 6:10 PM · Sacramento, CA. My orchestra has a full season planned and rehearsals begin next week. We canceled our usual August auditions and all musicians were required to submit proof of vaccination in July in order to play the fall half of the season. All musicians will be masked whenever possible, and the first concert of the season is programmed to require no more than pairs of winds. Our performance venue already requires both masks and proof of either vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours for the audience.
August 22, 2021, 7:11 PM · Thanks everyone. It's good to hear of the different measures countries / regions are taking to get things moving when they can.

I've been taking a break for violin to let my body heal a bit from many years of constant playing, so while the timing has been quite good from that perspective, I'd love to be able to get back into chamber ensembles in the future. And of course, go to some great concerts! I think we're all a little tired of online stuff...nothing beats the energy and immediacy of live music - having the soundwaves actually going through our bodies!

Edited: August 23, 2021, 1:26 AM · Last night's BBC Prom by the LSO/Rattle was (one of?) the first to dispense with social distancing and place 2 string players to each stand. I didn't count but the population of the platform was relatively modest - what you'd expect for a programme of Stravinsky symphonies. But the string players all wore masks. The audience seats were virtually sold out but the number of promenaders was still limited to maybe 50%.

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