While the current pandemic plays havoc with professional and community arts organizations, as far as Music Director Lawrence Eckerling is concerned, the Evanston Symphony will absolutely return to the stage.
“We’ll be back,” he says without reservation. “The world is crying for the arts.”
Adds David Ellis, the ESO’s General Manager, “We have sufficient cash reserves to last us a long time.” Mr. Ellis points out the orchestra is largely a volunteer organization: the board and musicians donate their services.
The ESO had to cancel its last two concerts on March 15 and May 3 due to the coronavirus.
Other symphony orchestras have had it worse. Even before the pandemic caused cancellations nationwide, orchestras were closing their doors for good due to financial problems. “Many symphonies have gone bankrupt,” says Michael Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland and author of the 2015 book “Curtains? The Future of the Arts in America.”
“The next 10 to 20 years are going to be a transitional period for orchestras,” he adds.
Nevertheless, the ESO is planning to celebrate its upcoming 75th anniversary season with a full schedule, to begin Oct. 25 with the Mozart “Jupiter” Symphony and the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 1 with soloist Kariné Poghosyan. The second subscription concert is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2021, and features Gaîté Parisienne by Offenbach and the Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto no. 1 performed by cellist and former Chicagoan Sophie Webber. The April 25 concert combines Beethoven’s 1st and 9th Symphonies with the North Shore Choral Society and the last, on June 6, includes Mahler’s 1st Symphony and the Korngold Violin Concerto with soloist Maya Anjali Buchanan. The annual holiday concert is slated for Dec. 6.
Of course, all that depends on public health restrictions in place at the time. “We have to be prudent and take into consideration when it is safe for our audience and our musicians to come back,” said ESO Board President Cheryl Haack, who is also principal second violinist in the orchestra. Adds ESO violist and Board Vice President Penelope Sachs, “There are so many unknowns.” She said the ESO board is looking at a lot of options in the event that a full season is not possible.
For the most current information, check the ESO’s web site, www.evanstonsymphony.org.