GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nothing, not even a pandemic, can keep the Grand Rapids Symphony from performing.
While the orchestra is accustomed to being onstage at DeVos Performance Hall in downtown Grand Rapids, orchestra management decided prohibitions against large gatherings could not keep them quiet.
“We worked from Day One to bring our musicians into people's homes digitally,” said Grand Rapids Symphony VP & general manager Aaron Doty.
Soon, a series called “From Our Home To Yours” was posted online, including a range of performances from solos to that stitched individual musicians playing at home together into ensembles.
Live appearances proved to be possible, only with smaller audiences and smaller groups of symphony musicians. “We worked with (the City of Grand Rapids) and worked through the parks departments to present Parks Pop-ups in the Park,” noted Doty. “We also brought smaller ensembles to people's homes in our Sidewalk Serenades.”
Beginning in September 2020, the symphony began performances featuring larger groups of musicians through its Pathwaves series, streamed online and available through subscriptions and individual ticket sales. That series ended in mid-May, with the number of musicians in performances increasing as restrictions were gradually relaxed.
The entire pandemic pivot kept the symphony active and employed, supported by grants, subscriptions, and ticket sales. “The support and philanthropic support of the community during this time has been so crucial,” Doty said.
Now the symphony is pivoting back to a new season with a schedule of performances allowing larger and larger orchestra configurations and audiences. “We start with our summer season and being able to perform safely outdoors in parks and in people's homes and at larger outdoor events, like Meijer Gardens and at Blue Lake, where we'll be performing for the campers there,” Doty explained.
In addition to performing again at DeVos Hall, a three-concert series is planned for the outdoor space at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, but details have not been announced.
The chance to perform before live audiences will mean a lot to the musicians, Doty said. “The experience of delivering sound to an empty hall with no response just isn't the same.”