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One year later, TFO performs 50th live concert amid pandemic

One year after the coronavirus brought our world to a standstill, The Florida Orchestra has hit a milestone filled with hope: We have now performed more than 50 concerts for live audiences at the Mahaffey Theater since October, all following CDC guidelines for health and safety.

Now we’re offering a concert with space to pause, reflect and heal. Music Director Michael Francis will conduct Serenity, a mesmerizing mix of music, on March 13 & 14 at the Mahaffey Theater in the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series.

“We have experienced 12 months unlike anything before,” Maestro Francis said. “As we move forward together with optimism, we wanted to curate an event that gives our community a chance to pause and reflect. This Serenity concert is a haven: a serene musical space for peace, beauty and contemplation.”

The Serenity concert features Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most recognizable and beautiful pieces in the world. Famously featured at the funeral of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, as well as the 1986 film Platoon, it simultaneously evokes both sadness and hope. Maestro Francis will begin the concert with Ahmed Alabaca’s Across the Calm Waters of Heaven – A Piece for Peace, written after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015, that “captures the inextinguishable spark of human goodness.”

Also on the program are Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto for Oboe No. 2 featuring soloist Mitchell Kuhn; On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and Anton Bruckner’s Christus factus est, adapted for low brass by Ross Holcombe.

If you’d rather watch while doing yoga in your living room, the Serenity concert will be streamed live from the Mahaffey Theater at 8 pm March 13.

In a separate Soundwaves concert on the same weekend, the orchestra’s premier winds will perform Mozart’s Gran Partita, one of the most beautiful and poignant serenades in all classical music. Performances are 5 pm on March 13 & 14.

“Considering a year ago we had no idea when we’d be able to perform live again, this 50-concert milestone is an amazing feat – especially as many orchestras across the nation remain dark. We owe so much of our success to the unwavering support of our Tampa Bay community, the passionate dedication of Maestro Francis and our musicians, our strong Board of Directors, and tireless staff,” said TFO President & CEO Mark Cantrell. “We still have a full slate of concerts in this remarkable season that will continue to bring comfort, joy and healing to Tampa Bay and beyond.”

An artistic gem in Tampa Bay for 53 years, the orchestra returned to the stage for in-person audiences on Oct. 31 after an eight-month hiatus. In a unique approach to the season, TFO added Soundwaves concerts, the result of Maestro Francis splitting the orchestra into two smaller ensembles for safety. The silver lining: twice the music, including works TFO doesn’t often get the chance to perform. TFO also began to offer select concerts for free via live stream and on demand. So far, more than 21,000 screens across the country have tuned in.

Even as TFO started to cancel live concerts in March 2020, musicians kept the music going, with well more than 100 performance and education videos in its TFO at Home series online. The orchestra’s community and education programs have not missed a beat:

  • Free violin lessons for kids continue virtually in partnership with the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program in Hillsborough County.
  • Teaching Artists offer virtual lessons to support strings programs in Pinellas schools and have created more than 140 videos to help students practice.
  • For the first time, the orchestra streamed its annual Youth Concert straight into Tampa Bay classrooms, safely reaching an estimated 30,000 elementary students – more than ever.

The 2020/21 season continues through May, with a wide variety of music to comfort, inspire and entertain.

To keep each other healthy and safe, all concerts follow CDC guidelines, including mandatory face masks, spaced seating in pairs and extensive testing for musicians.

All performances are at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Tickets for both concerts below start at $23.

Sat, Mar 13, 2 pm
Sat, Mar 13, 8 pm
Sun, Mar 14, 2 pm

Mozart’s Gran Partita
Sat, Mar 13, 5 pm
Sun, Mar 14, 5 pm

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