The San Juan Symphony is taking its 35th season online for 2020-21, and is offering its subscribers a series of four concerts and a lot more.
Like just about every other form of local entertainment, the symphony, which performs in both Durango and Farmington, saw its performances cut short because of the novel coronavirus pandemic that took hold in the spring and has been with us ever since. In-person closures have motivated a lot of performers to get creative, which is also the case with the symphony.
“It’s been a really difficult thing to navigate, but I’m excited about what’s coming,” said Music Director Thomas Heuser.
The symphony’s season, named “Essential,” will be made up of four concerts with an orchestra ensemble. The concerts will mirror the four subscription concerts the symphony usually does, just no live audiences, Heuser said. The shows will be produced with these small ensembles at various places around the Four Corners.
“Our first one coming up, we’re going to be at Blue Lake Ranch with a small orchestra and make a video out there,” Heuser said. “The videos will be made in advance and released as a “live” streaming event where I’ll probably be interviewed or interviewing others and then we’ll release the recordings that we’ve made. People can then access them through their membership through our website.”
Digital season passes are available for $99 and can be purchased at www.sanjuansymphony.org. According to a news release from the symphony, in addition to the four main programs, the website will host a variety of engaging content, including the pre-concert talks by Heuser, interviews with composers and musicians, plus a video series of solo and ensemble performances by SJS musicians that have been commissioned by Heuser specifically for the online audience.
Passes are good for a year, and the symphony said that as the season progresses, other ticketing options will be introduced, including a $25 weeklong pass, a $5 day pass with limited content access and coupons for students and music teachers.
“While the virtual tickets may seem like an unfortunate alternative to live music, they also offer a unique opportunity to reach new audiences, particularly first-time listeners, families with young children, audiences in other parts of the country, and those who might have physical limitations to attending concerts,” the symphony said.
The first subscription event the symphony has planned will be streamed Oct. 3. It’s called “Black Voices and a Ballet for Martha,” with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Ballet for its original 13 musicians alongside two new works by Black composers. It will launch a seasonlong conversation about diversity and inclusivity.
The symphony said other composers planned for the subscription series include George Walker, Eleanor Alberga, Gustav Mahler and Astor Piazzola.
As for the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra program, the symphony said musical instruction will go on this year with plans for online tutorials and practice guides that will assist students in their preparation of orchestral repertoire, with conductors and professional coaches establishing both remote and in-person relationships as the year progresses.
And there is a bright side to having to pivot in the face of a global pandemic: Aspects of the digital concert experience are likely to become lasting features of the symphony even after concert halls reopen.
“We are determined to make music and to connect with our audience,” Heuser said in the news release. “Now more than ever before, we feel that music is essential. ... We cannot have live audiences, nor can we bring large orchestras together, but we can still make music. And so rather than throw in the towel, we are thinking outside the box and bringing the symphony into people’s homes.”