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Balzac-based symphony postpones February concerts

In light of the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases in Alberta, the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra (RMSO) announced they are postponing their next concert, originally scheduled for Feb. 11 and 12, until next season.
Rocky Mountain Symphony
The Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra (RMSO) announced they are postponing their next concert, amidst the rise of COVID-19 cases, originally scheduled for Feb. 11 and 12.

In light of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in Alberta, the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra (RMSO) has announced they are postponing their next concerts, originally scheduled for Feb. 11 and 12, until next season.

The decision was made in response to the difficulties in rehearsing with a full orchestra, according to RMSO music director Carlos Foggin.

Following suit after other performance organizations began postponing planned events due to musicians and artists having to quarantine, Foggin said it would be hard to replace musicians once rehearsals start.

“If we've done two of the three rehearsals and then we have to replace eight players, it could be pretty difficult to put on a show that we'd like to do,” Foggin said.

Instead of waiting to cancel at the last minute and risk getting members of the orchestra sick, Foggin and the orchestra decided to call it off early.

The Masterworks Romance concert, featuring pianist Stephen Nyugen and works by Beethoven, Mahler, Debussy, and Chopin, was set to take place at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts in Rocky View County during the Valentines Day weekend.

Ticket holders have been contacted directly about refund, exchange, or credit options. 

The concert will be rescheduled for the 2022-23 season, the schedule for which is anticipated to come out in May.

“We thought, let's just ride this one out and we've seen the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and other organizations like the Red Deer symphony also taking the same approach,” Foggin said.

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra cancelled four upcoming performances, including Yuja Wang originally scheduled on Jan. 15 and 16, and Diana Cohen Performs Mozart scheduled on Jan. 21 and 22, in light of COVID-19.

Foggin noted that while all RMSO musicians are vaccinated, having two doses doesn’t seem to slow down the new Omicron variant, and having musicians potentially isolating for five to 10 days makes it difficult to rehearse and perform.

Despite making it frustrating to put on concerts, the pandemic has taught the RMSO a lot, according to Foggin.

“It taught us that our organization in particular is actually quite resilient. We don't have big overhead costs, we don't have office rent or a lot of full-time employees,” Foggin explained.

Due to relatively low costs, RMSO has been able to weather the pandemic relatively unscathed.

“Unfortunately, not a lot of organizations, especially those in service or tourism or the arts, can say that,” he added.

The majority of RMSO’s musicians are employed in other job sectors than the performing arts, which means they have continued to get by financially during the pandemic. But some musicians are full-time performing artists who had a tougher time at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Luckily, the other orchestra members supported those musicians who were struggling until they got back on their feet, Foggin added.

“That's the beautiful thing about the orchestra, is that it's not just a workplace, it's become a family,” he said.

Foggin said he was proud of the fact that RMSO added cameras and livestream equipment to the Polaris Centre last year, allowing them to keep producing music these past two years.

“People could see the different concerts throughout the pandemic, whereas [some] other orchestras and organizations have done nothing for almost two years,” he said.

Foggin said that after offering two concerts back in person at the end of 2021, the feedback from the audience was that they were overwhelmed and many people came to the realization that music provides so much more than simple entertainment.

“People come because they need music,” Foggin explained. “There's 50 people on that stage, maybe 20 years experience on average. That's 1,000 years of experience – lived experience, not just musical experience. Everyone has their own life, own struggles, own family and they're each representing that in their sound. 

“It really is an opportunity to hear life, to hear turmoil and struggle and happiness and joy expressed by 50 people at the top of their game simultaneously.”

He added that sitting in a room with 2,000 others and watching a live orchestra performance is much different than watching a livestream online. It’s something that’s important for everyone’s essential health, he said, and without it ,people become a little less refined – as the world has witnessed over the past two years.

RMSO is not the only organization cancelling upcoming productions. Other cancelled performances in the region include the One Yellow Rabbit’s annual High Performance Rodeo, which was to feature more than 75 artists with more than 20 shows in downtown Calgary, as well as the Big Winter Classic, which was to feature 90 bands in various venues from Jan. 27 to 30.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival postponed a Jan. 14 performance by singer-songwriter Frazey Ford scheduled for Knox United Church. The Block Heater Festival on Feb. 17 to 20 will “cautiously” be going ahead at various venues.

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