© 2024 WEKU
Lexington's Radio News Leader
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Hosting In-Person Concerts Amid Pandemic

Cheri Lawson

James Cassidy is the founder and music director of the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. He stands in front of a 22 piece string orchestra originally scheduled to be a 72 piece orchestra before the pandemic.

He’s conducting rehearsal at a warehouse in northern Kentucky. Cassidy is determined to keep the symphony performing for live audiences despite the pandemic.

“By following guidelines and protocols and being distanced and doing what we have to do I thought we could still play and that’s why you’re finding the symphony opening  its season in an industrial warehouse in Hebron, Kentucky," said Cassidy.

Credit Cheri Lawson
Music director, James Cassidy conducts rehearsal of KSO at warehouse.

When COVID hit, Cassidy says they had to cancel their biggest fundraiser but continued to perform outdoors during the summer. He regularly checked in with the musicians to see how they were doing.

“We’re going to continue that. I mean when orchestra members arrive at rehearsal their temperature is taken, they’re masked. We’re doing everything we can, to do it the right way,” said Cassidy.

While performing the musicians sit six feet apart and wear masks. Principal cellist Tom Guth says normally they’d be sharing music stands and sitting much closer together.

Credit Cheri Lawson
Principal cellist, Tom Guth rehearses while distanced and wearing mask. Guth says he feels safe playing with these precautions.

"I almost feel like I’m kind of constricted in a way even though I have all this space around me and I have this mask to protect me. So it definitely sounds different. I feel like I’m playing by myself. I hear everyone else. But I don’t feel like I’m part of the group,” said Guth.

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is offering both live (in person) and virtual performances for its 29th subscription season. At the first concert, about 150 people attended. Villa -Hills resident Paula Steiner says she’s never experienced a symphony orchestra play in a warehouse before.

“Those of us who like live music are really starved for it. It’s not normal, but it’s the new normal, I guess,” said Steiner.

Steiner posed for a picture with friends Carol and George Beddie. They’ve made the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra part of their lives for 25 years. Carol says the sound of the orchestra in the warehouse is fantastic.

Credit Cheri Lawson
Paula Steiner, Carol and George Beddie pose for a picture during intermission of the KSO's performance.

“The masks I wish we didn’t have to do this. The distancing, I wish we could hug one another but I want to see my next birthday. I understand. We’ll do what we have to do so we can have a future,” said Beddie.

The orchestra’s general manager, Angela Williamson, says there’s nothing like the experience of the music being performed live.

“We knew that there was a way we could figure out how to do it safely. Thus you have smaller groups that we’re using on stage. We’re also social distancing in the hall. We actually had to jump over a lot of hurdles to make it happen and it’s not been too easy.  Everything has to be moved in and out and I mean everything,” said Williamson.

In Bowling Green, the symphony orchestra called Orchestra Kentucky plans to perform live, in-person as well.

But the Lexington Philharmonic has taken a different approach. Executive Director Allison Kaiser says normally this time of year the LexPhil would be presenting its third concert of its season series live, in- person, but not this year with the pandemic. She says they’ve become very creative.

“We were able to launch a series of safe outdoor ensemble concerts.  We’ve recorded a great deal of those concerts and we will be releasing those on our web site as we finishing the editing,” said Kaiser.

Credit Cheri Lawson
KSO rehearses at industrial warehouse.?

The Louisville Orchestra has gone completely online with its season due to COVID according to spokesperson Michelle Winters. She says there did not appear to be an opportunity for the orchestra to go live.

“If we could have, we would have. We do plan to. There’s nothing like a live performance. Not having that opportunity yet here in Louisville has been one of the toughest things during this whole process,” said Winters.

Meanwhile, in northern Kentucky, conductor, James Cassidy says as long as it can be done safely  the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra will  continue its 29th season series with live in-person concerts. ?

If you appreciate access to this important content during this global pandemic, please help us continue to provide public service journalism and information to Central and Eastern Kentucky communities. Please make your contribution to WEKU today.

Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
WEKU depends on support from those who view and listen to our content. There's no paywall here. Please support WEKU with your donation.
Related Content