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Houston Symphony Opens Its 2020–21 Season With New Programming, Continued Livestreaming, And Safety Measures At Jones Hall 

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The company has developed measured approach to welcoming small audiences safely back to the live concert experience.

Houston Symphony Opens Its 2020–21 Season With New Programming, Continued Livestreaming, And Safety Measures At Jones Hall 

The Houston Symphony prepares to open its 2020-21 Season this month, with new programming to accommodate social distancing onstage, comprehensive safety protocols throughout Jones Hall, and a measured approach to welcoming small audiences safely back to the live concert experience, as livestreaming continues for those at home.

"We've had a great summer, with nearly 750,000 viewers for our 'Living Room Series', our 'Live from Jones Hall' streams, and our musician videos," says John Mangum, Houston Symphony Executive Director/CEO and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair. "We're proud to be the first major orchestra in the United States with a regular performance schedule. Now that we have our musicians back on stage to play each week, it's time to start welcoming our patrons back to Jones Hall. Live performance for audiences is at the heart of what we do, so this is the natural next step for us as we chart our course for the future."

With the first subscription concert of the 2020-21 Classical Season, sponsored by the Robert Cizik Family, the Houston Symphony invites longtime subscribers back to Jones Hall for the first time since March 2020. Having practiced front-of-house logistics over the summer with small groups of donors and staff, the Symphony is inviting just under 150 season subscribers-less than 10% capacity of the 2,900-person venue-per concert in late September, with the goal of gradually increasing that number later in the season as possible. "As we monitor the situation in Houston," adds Mangum, "we're making the safety of our audience and musicians our number one priority, while still fulfilling our mission to present live music."

Based on guidance from partners at Houston Methodist and Houston First, the Symphony is putting safety protocols in place for all patrons, musicians, and staff entering Jones Hall. These measures include regular COVID-19 testing for musicians; requiring protective masks that cover the nose and mouth at all times; staggered entry and exiting; and keeping concertgoers seated a minimum of six feet apart.

Concerts will continue to have a one-hour run time with no intermission, and food and beverage service will be suspended to eliminate crowding. For a comprehensive list of safety measures, visit houstonsymphony.org/safety.

Also, Houston First has recently introduced upgrades to Jones Hall in accordance with its Houston Clean initiative, pledging to maintain the very highest standards of public safety and health across the city of Houston. Upgrades include the creation of new aisles in the auditorium and the replacement of sinks to operate with touchless technology. Between performances, Jones Hall is undergoing deep cleaning of all frequently touched and high traffic areas. To further refine safety plans, the Symphony is working in partnership with researchers at Rice University on a study of how air particles spread during concerts.

September begins with two concerts available solely through livestreaming. Each Houston Symphony season traditionally begins with its first POPS concert, and 2020-21 is no different. Previously a sponsor of the Symphony's Summer Sounds Series at Jones Hall, Bank of America deepens their commitment to Houston's community and the arts by becoming the title sponsor for the Symphony POPS Series during the 2020-21 season. Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke opens the 2020- 21 Bank of America POPS Series with singers from Houston's Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) and musicians from the Houston Symphony in a livestream performance of "The Best of Broadway". Curated and developed for Houston by Reineke, "The Best of Broadway" features Broadway favorites by the Houston Symphony Principal POPS Conductor, who both conducts and performs at the piano in this program that includes music from South Pacific, Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act, Sunday in the Park With George, Frozen, and much more. Live from Jones Hall: Best of Broadway is available for livestream on Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. CST.

Tickets are now on sale at houstonsymphony.org/livefromjoneshall.

For the Symphony's Opening Night on September 12, the livestreamed performance will be available exclusively to gala ticket holders and includes food and beverage delivery to their homes thanks to City Kitchen. Concertmaster and Max Levine Chair Yoonshin Song is the violinist and leader for a program that includes works by three of today's pre-eminent women composers-Jessie Montgomery's Banner for string quartet and string orchestra (based on the Star Spangled Banner and Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing), Keiko Abe's Conversations in the Forest for marimba duo, and Jennifer Higdon's Autumn Music for wind quintet-alongside Gabrieli's Duodecimi Toni, Ravel's Introduction and Allegro, and Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins.

Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada regrets that travel restrictions prevent him from being here as scheduled for the first two weeks of the Classical Season, sponsored by the Robert Cizik Family, in September. The first Classical subscription concert takes place the weekend of September 18 and features Franz Schubert's largest scale chamber work, his six-movement Octet in F that culminates in a vigorous, joyful finale, perfect for the occasion. The weekend of September 25, the Houston Symphony performs a program entirely comprising music by female composers. Works by Reena Esmail and Florence Price share the program with Ethel Smyth's Songs for Mezzo-Soprano with Instrumental Accompaniment, which Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation Conducting Fellow Yue Bao will conduct and features Kelley O'Connor, a favorite Symphony guest artist most recently heard in Mahler's Second Symphony in September 2018.

The Robert Cizik Family Classical Series is endowed by the Wortham Foundation, Inc., in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Concertmaster, and Max Levine Chair Yoonshin Song is sponsored in part by Gary and Marian Beauchamp and the Beauchamp Foundation. Livestream of Houston Symphony concerts is made possible by Barbara J. Burger and the Albert & Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation.

For those who won't be attending concerts in person at Jones Hall, the Symphony is introducing a 2020-21 Season livestream subscription option so patrons can continue to enjoy live music from the comfort of their own homes. Each livestream performance is available via a private link to ticket holders for $20, and livestream subscribers who purchase a package of tickets receive an additional 25% discount.

To purchase a livestream subscription, visit houstonsymphony.org/liveconcerts.


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