Your Regional Guide To The Performing Arts

Creative Rethinking: Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Presents Concerts on the Square in a Whole New Way

Creative Rethinking: Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Presents Concerts on the Square in a Whole New Way
Photo Credit: Joe Loehnis (The WCO rehearses for their first performance on August 25th.)

Performing Arts groups, now more than ever, have had to be creative. From virtual play readings, workshops, zoom performances, and more, all are trying their best to keep their artists working and the creativity flowing.

One particularly exciting solution has come from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, who had to rethink their popular summer Concerts on the Square series for the 2020 season.

“Since the pandemic hit we’ve looked for new, creative ways to share the WCO’s music and to live up to our mission to provide world-class orchestral performances for as many Wisconsinites as possible,” said Joe Loehnis, WCO’s CEO. “After looking at every possible option, we determined this was the best way to have our musicians play live for the community.”

This year, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will host two special “Concerts on the Square” on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 at Breese Stevens Field, from where they’ll broadcast the performance free – all in an effort keep live music alive in Madison.

Following county health and safety guidelines, the WCO will host a small group of patrons (maximum 25 people) at Breese, but the primary focus is on simulcasting the concert through multiple channels and venues to create a “concert-like” experience in a time when large groups are prohibited.

The two concerts will feature the orchestra live at Breese Stevens. From there, WORT 89.9 FM will air the concerts including a pre-concert show from 5-6 p.m., while the WCO will live stream each performance in real-time through its website,

Additionally, each performance will be streamed live for drive-in concerts at the Madison Mallards Duck Pond on the city’s north side. Visit the Madison Mallards website to buy tickets. Each concert has a 115-car capacity.

“We want this to be a celebration in resilience, with the WCO providing a couple of hours of live music during these times of pandemic featuring our talented musicians,” said Maestro Andrew Sewell.

The WCO leaders worked with county health officials, musicians, and experts in the orchestra field to develop a safety plan that goes above and beyond current outdoor gathering guidelines in Dane County. Along with only allowing 25 attendees in person, musicians will be socially distanced six to 12 feet, depending on the instrument. Each will have personal protective equipment and plexiglass shields to mitigate the spread of aerosols. All rehearsals will be held outside and health and temperature screenings will be conducted prior to each concert.

“This is priority No. 1 and we have taken every step to keep patrons and our musicians safe,” Loehnis said.

To view the WCO’s full health and safety plan, click here.

The first concert, which is this Tuesday evening, is titled “Come Together” and features the music of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s including The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Who, and more. The following September 1st concert, titled “For the Greater Groove”, features o   Tracy Silverman on electric violin. They’ll perform two previously commissioned works from Silverman along with his world premiere of For the Greater Groove.

Whether you are able to score one of the limited live seats, enjoy it from the safety of your car, or feel most comfortable tuning in at home, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s concert series is sure to be one you won’t want to miss.


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