COVID has delivered hard lessons for nearly everyone in the past two years. For concert presenters, accustomed to planning three, four, or five years into the future, one of them is: Get used to being flexible, says Jack Fishman, executive director of Baltimore Choral Arts. By that he means flexibility that is central to the daily routine—an attribute that goes well beyond the ability to scramble when a soloist gets the flu. That kind of flexibility "has never been associated with us,” says Fishman. “Now, it's our watchword.”
Eager plans to resume in-person performances this season were tested last fall by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and have been challenged again by Omicron, which sent average daily cases in the U.S. well above 200,000 at the end of 2021. In a late January email survey of North American choral leaders, Chorus Connection learned that 76 percent of the approximately 900 respondents feel their biggest COVID-related challenge in 2022 is navigating ongoing changes with new variants and health guidelines. For the 73 percent that plan to give in-person performances this year, the Omicron surge has forced them to rethink their plans. Twenty-two percent say they’ve had to postpone performances, and 19 percent have had to cancel.
To get a sense of how choruses are reaching decisions to change plans—or to stick with them—we checked in with five organizations that started the season with January or February concerts on their calendars: three organizations that postponed concerts and two that chose to continue as planned. How did they make their decisions? How did they implement changes on short notice? Has enduring COVID’s toll for nearly two years left them with lessons they can profit from now? How are they thinking about the unpredictable future that lies beyond Omicron?
Read the stories in this series:
- The Choral Arts Society of Washington postponed Living the Dream, Singing the Dream (a Martin Luther King tribute concert) from January 30 to April 10
- Key Chorale in Sarasota, Florida postponed Choral Splendor in 40 Parts (music by Thomas Tallis and Alessandro Striggio) from January 14-15 to May 6-7.
- VOX Femina Los Angeles postponed Music They Wrote (honoring past and present women composers) from February 26 to April 23.
- The Thirteen in Washington, DC is moving ahead as planned with Sing Willow (centered on music by Vaughan Williams) on February 11, 12 and 13.
- Baltimore Choral Arts is moving ahead as planned with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana on February 27.