Philharmonic and Chamber Music Society will stay shut until 2021

Wed Jun 10, 2020 at 3:16 pm
The New York Philharmonic announced Wednesday it will not present a fall season in 2020-21 due to Covid-19. Photo: Chris Lee

The New York Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center announced Wednesday that they have cancelled all fall concerts due to Covid-19.  Both organizations expressed hope that they would return to presenting live music at the beginning of 2021.

“We had no choice,” said Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda in a released statement. “Our number one concern is the health and safety of our audiences, musicians, and employees. It has become very clear that large groups of people will not be able to safely gather for the remainder of the calendar year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our decision to let the entire Philharmonic family and our public know at this time has been strongly informed by New York State government regulations, along with the advice of medical experts.”

The orchestra set a target date of January 6, 2021, for their next performance. With that, the Philharmonic stated that they are “exploring options for concerts in smaller gatherings when possible.” The orchestra offered no word as to what might be on the schedule for the new year, nor if anything previously slated for the fall could be salvaged.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center promises postponements instead of outright cancellations. They announced their intent to present their full 2020-21 season in 2021. Replacing live performances through the fall will be a new, and as yet unspecified, program of concerts “curated and produced specifically for the online, at-home concert experience,” that will take advantage of their long experience and existing infrastructure for live-streaming performances. Details are promised later this summer.

CMS also committed to supporting musicians who have lost so much of their livelihood this year. They will pay their performing artist 50% of their fees this season and 75% of their fees in 2021 in an arrangement that CMS says will provide a total of 125% of fees to artists who had been engaged for the spring of 2020 through spring of 2021. The plans serve “to honor both the artistic effort invested in the programming and the importance of the artists being able to eventually complete these creative endeavors.” 

CMS.executive director Suzanne Davidson said “Our Board has generously committed to make gifts and fundraise so that we can take the unprecedented step of compensating our artists both this season and next, to minimize the hardship they must endure now, and to reinforce our commitment to presenting these programs next season. We look forward to concerts this fall that will use technology to bring us together for unique musical experiences, strengthening us as a community…until we can once again gather together for inspiring concerts in one physical space.”

Wednesday’s announcements came with a feeling of inevitability. New York City only this week took the first tentative steps toward returning to normal social, economic, and cultural life under the continuing shadow of the coronavirus. Phase 1 of New York State’s four-phase plan allows for construction, manufacturing, and curb-side retail pickup. The results of each phase will be evaluated before any region can move on to the next, and concert halls can reopen only in the last phase. Even with that, there will be restrictions on the size of audiences and, without any doubt, the number of musicians who can be assembled on stage.

One Response to “Philharmonic and Chamber Music Society will stay shut until 2021”

  1. Posted Jun 10, 2020 at 11:10 pm by Missing Masur

    Given the graying of the NY Phil’s audience (most of whom are members of a COVID-19 high-risk group), one wonders how many will be willing to return to a crowded concert hall when performances eventually resume. (Further complicated by a possible second wave this fall/winter.)

    Missing Masur

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