The Victoria Symphony has announced it will return to live performances for its upcoming 2020-2021 season, starting next weekend with the long-awaited return of music director Christian Kluxen.
Kluxen left the symphony for his native Denmark when the pandemic arrived, and only recently returned to Victoria. He rejoins the symphony on Sept. 19 at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium for the launch of the new season — the first time in 18 months that the orchestra will be together in concert.
Victoria Symphony CEO Matthew White expects the sight of Kluxen leading the orchestra through a performance of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 to be met with a rapturous reception, both from the audience and musicians.
“I know that the orchestra are extremely excited,” White said. “We’ve scheduled some extra rehearsals, to get them reacquainted because it’s been so long. I can really tell that they miss him and want to have him back on the podium.”
With much to be decided, in terms of provincial health protocols, White said the season will be broken into two parts.
The 2020 portion features a hybrid of 16 in-person and online concerts, with reduced capacity performances of works by Vivaldi, Piazzolla, Haydn and Brahms at both the Farquhar Auditorium (300-person capacity) and Christ Church Cathedral (120 capacity). White said details of the 2022 concerts, which take place between January and May, will be announced in the coming weeks, when organizers have a better idea of the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
He expects concerts during the second portion of the season to be at full capacity, protocols permitting.
“We always abide 100 per cent by WorkSafe BC standards. All of our venue partners have been extremely collaborative and helpful and open about their own difficulties navigating the process, and they’re trying to be as helpful as possible. I certainly don’t feel any frustration. We’re all in the same boat, and we all need one another in order to get back to business.”
White felt it was important to bring back to full pay the symphony’s 43 full-time musicians, who worked sporadically during the pandemic.
“We’ve all gotten comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said. “But we decided as an organization to support the musicians this year at their full salaries and their full compensation package.
“The more we all thought about it, it was really the only decision. If we’re going to retain all these amazing people in our community, we have to support them.”
White took over as CEO of the Victoria Symphony in late 2019, about six months before the pandemic arrived. When COVID-19 hit, he was tasked with building the symphony’s online presence through a steady series of virtual concerts, a practice he hopes to continue offering even when in-person concerts return. He said symphony supporters have been a constant source of inspiration during the past 18 months, and deserve to enjoy bit of programming the organization can muster.
The community support has been unwavering, White added.
“People here love the orchestra — it’s a disproportionately well-supported orchestra for a city of this size,” he said.
“This is a community that is really 100% behind the orchestra, which made the year-and-a-half a lot easier knowing that. When I picked up the phone and said: ‘Look, we’re having a hard time, we need your help,’ people responded.”