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Symphony Hall Silenced for the Fall


The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced the unprecedented cancellation of next season’s concerts from September to the end of November because of Covid’s continuing spread. This goes far beyond the two-week season-opening delay occasioned by the flu pandemic of 102 years ago [see BMInt’s story HERE]; the Second World War, though, brought about shortened and eliminated Tanglewood seasons.

Management will announce decisions about the winter and spring periods by the year’s end. Patrons and subscribers will be contacted in September about refunds, credits, and donations. The BSO expects to lose $30M for the fiscal year ending in August.

In September, the Orchestra will announce online content for the season, following the apparent success since the end of March of the BSO at Home and ongoing Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival offerings.

6% of viewers/listeners are made up of an international audience, representing 37 countries on 6 different continents.

33% of viewers have watched 3 or more programs. 

When surveyed after viewing a program, more than 95% of respondents say that they are likely to watch another Tanglewood online offering. 

52% of viewers are BSO/Tanglewood donors. 

About 33% of viewer households are brand new to the BSO since June 15th when the schedule was set.

The BSO continues to monitor CDC and Commonwealth health and safety recommendations, as well as conferring with its own team of medical experts about testing. For the day when live performance resumes, experts have been developing plans to update heating and cooling ventilation and filtration systems; exploring supplemental air cleaning technologies; monitoring devices and touchless infrastructure; developing robust cleaning and disinfecting procedures; and modeling building circulation and workplace modifications for physical distancing.

Today’s press release went silent on other operations reductions — staffing, numbers, deployments, furloughs, salary maintenance, and the like, but one can assume some extensions of the furloughs announced HERE. A BSO spokesman told BMInt that

The orchestra’s current salary reduction announced on April 17th runs through the end of the orchestra’s contract on August 23rd.  The Corporation and musicians are in negotiations for a subsequent agreement, including any further salary considerations.  During these unprecedented times of concert cancellations and revenue losses in the millions, we expect that we will have to continue to make difficult decisions to help ensure that the orchestra will emerge from this crisis as a vibrant and essential institution, though we have no further comment to share on this subject at this time. 

Read the full press release HERE

Other activities in Symphony Hall, such as the Speakers’ Series, Pops, and concerts of outside presenters such as the Celebrity Series of Boston and the Handel and Haydn Society concerts look distinctly unlikely. H +  H reports that

H+H is postponing the first three concerts of the year, but hopes to offer a livestream of some sort on those dates, including a livestream option for its performances of Messiah on Thanksgiving weekend. Next, Artistic Director Harry Christophers has agreed to stay on through the 2021-22 season. This season was set to be Harry’s last. Finally, H+H announced it will compensate all musicians (including singers) who will lose employment this season at the rate of 50% of what they normally would have received. The entire release is HERE.

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