JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the coronavirus pandemic forced local performance venues to dim their lights, live music from the Jacksonville Symphony is starting again this week. The symphony is holding two free “test concerts” Wednesday and Thursday nights, ahead of Fanfare! Opening Night 2020, scheduled for Sept. 26.
It’s often said music has the power to bring healing. After being forced to close its doors since March -- and cancel 30 concerts -- the Jacksonville Symphony is bringing music back to the River City.
Courtney Lewis, the symphony’s music director, said he and his fellow symphony musicians are thrilled to return to the stage.
“For us musicians, and I know for our audience as well...one of the most important things is hearing live music,” Lewis said. “There’s something about hearing music in a group together that is a very powerful and a very rich, emotional experience.”
Lewis said masks are required at the venue, and temperature checks will be taken at the front door. Furthermore, the concert hall will be operating at one-third of its capacity. A spokesperson told News4Jax this means the concert hall will go from holding almost 1,800 people to under 600. Physical distancing is also being enforced with approximately 6 feet between groups. Boxes will not be physically distanced, but plexiglass screens will separate groups.
“Everybody in the orchestra on stage and the audience in the hall will be socially distanced,” Lewis said. “The hall will also be electro-statically cleaned between every performance.”
Lines to enter the Times-Union Center will be physically distanced as marked on the pavement. Hand sanitizer stations have also been placed throughout the lobby areas, and restroom facilities are being reduced by 50%.
Performances are expected to last between an hour and 75 minutes. There will not be an intermission, and masks must be worn at all times.
Lewis said the symphony lost about $1 million due to the pandemic. This forced several fulltime employees to take significant pay cuts. Thankfully, he said, generous donors have stepped in to assist.
Lewis said while playing for a smaller audience while social distancing will take getting used to, those first moments out on stage will be priceless.
“I’m looking forward so much to walking out on stage Wednesday night for the first time in six months,” Lewis said. “Seeing the public, hearing their reception, and being able to offer them the gift of music.”
The test concerts are Wednesday and Thursday night, beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m. To learn more about reserving tickets for this week’s concerts and all concerts currently scheduled, click here.
If you’re interested in donating to help the Jacksonville Symphony, donations can be made here.