The Rome Symphony Orchestra (RSO) has had several months of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this week some orchestra members return to the stage. On Saturday at 7 p.m., RSO will offer a free livestream of Swingin’ Strings, a concert dedicated to the doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers now known as heroes of the pandemic.
“We would like to be able to provide some entertainment to people if we can do it safely,” RSO Conductor Jeffrey Dokken says. “Secondly, we are doing it as a way of saying thank you to the frontline workers and healthcare workers for all they’ve been doing.”
The concert will feature a string quartet, drum set, and piano. The show has a jazz theme, which Dokken says serves multiple purposes. “Because we were livestreaming it for everybody, we wanted to make sure that it appealed to as many people as possible,” he says. “Educationally, it will also show the versatility of the string quartet.”
In between pieces throughout the concert, Dokken will share profiles of several local healthcare workers as a way to say thank you to those members of the Rome community that have been on the frontlines of this pandemic. Dokken has conducted interviews with these workers about their experiences and found that the most common theme of their responses is unity. “They understand that they are all going through this experience with one another,” Dokken says. “From the custodial staff up to the director of the hospital, they’re all pitching in.”
RSO is approaching its 100th anniversary season next year, so Dokken and the symphony board have used the past several months to make a plan for safely returning to rehearsals and performances. Due to the airborne nature of the coronavirus, the orchestra will not include wind instruments in its performances until April. While they hope to return to in-person concerts in 2021, they also plan to livestream concerts until there is a vaccine readily available, Dokken says.
“We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we’re able to survive and thrive past the 100th anniversary season,” he says. “It is our intention to do every concert how we have it planned, but we are always going to be in consultation with local health departments. We are going to make every effort to make it so that we are never putting anybody in an unsafe situation.”
For this particular concert, the musicians will only rehearse together on the day before and the day of the performance. Rehearsals and the performance will take place in the Rome City Auditorium because it is a large venue, and everyone involved will be wearing masks. They also plan to leave the space every thirty minutes to allow the building to air out.
Although this concert may look very different than symphony concerts in the past, Dokken is excited that it presents a small return to normalcy for audiences and performers alike. “It’s important to have something to look forward to, even if it’s something small,” he says. “Hearing some music for an hour is good for the soul, it’s good for your brain. While nothing is normal, it is normal to be able to go to a Rome Symphony concert. Let’s provide some return to normalcy however we can.”
All audiences are invited to watch the concert on September 19 at 7 p.m. The livestream will be available on the RSO website, romesymphony.org. Though the concert is free to stream, RSO always appreciates donations. The website also provides information on how to support the symphony during this difficult time.