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Anchorage Symphony Orchestra cancels all in-person concerts through 2020

Randy Fleischer conducts the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, November 11, 2015. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra has suspended in-person concerts for the remainder of the year, canceling the launch of its 75th season.

Executive Director Sherri Burkhart Reddick made the announcement on the symphony’s website Monday, saying the decision was made to protect the safety of its patrons and musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Burkhart Reddick wrote that the symphony plans to host virtual performances and is brainstorming new ways to bring the city music.

“(We) are working now to reimagine how we bring you a compelling and engaging unconventional season,” she wrote. “We plan to stream live performances from our Atwood Concert Hall home and other locations, create virtual performances and develop new ways to share music with you.”

Typically, the season starts in the fall and runs through the spring. But the high transmissibility of COVID-19 at large gatherings and the difficulty of social distancing in the Atwood Concert Hall contributed to the decision, Burkhart Reddick wrote.

After surveying subscribers’ comfort with returning, the symphony found that 80% of respondents were not ready to attend concerts at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts without additional precautions. As for the musicians, their reluctance to return was similar, the symphony said.

Given the social distancing measures that would be required to return, only 350 people could attend a performance in the Atwood Concert Hall despite its 2,000-person capacity, according to the symphony. Only 15 to 30 musicians would be able to perform onstage when usually 80 musicians perform together.

The symphony said the cancellation of in-person performances means the symphony will need more community support.

“We are profoundly grateful for your concern,” Burkhart Reddick wrote. “We will need your help, and we will be asking for your support in the weeks ahead.”

The symphony’s last in-person concert was held Feb. 29, and with the hunker down order issued in March, it moved its 74th season finale online. It has since produced a virtual performance of the “Alaska Flag Song.”

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