PORT ANGELES — In a new collaboration, the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts are seeking input from the art-loving public.
In normal times, the arts organizations — two of the largest on the North Olympic Peninsula — would be heading into the summer, sending out colorful season brochures and ticket packages. The Symphony is going into its 88th year while the Juan de Fuca Foundation would have just had its 27th annual festival.
On many nights from fall through spring, the two nonprofit presenters welcome crowds to the 1,100-seat Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center.
This week, the Symphony and JFFA are simply emailing a 10-question poll to their patrons and sponsors across the region.
Titled the Arts Patron COVID-19 Survey, it’s being sent to some 3,500 people who have attended a performance in the recent past and thus joined the organizations’ databases.
“How are you likely to attend indoor public events of 50+ people once Clallam County reaches Phase 4 of recovery?” is among the queries. So is a question about outdoor events.
“What social distancing protocols would you like to see in place before you return to large gatherings of any kind?” the survey goes on to ask, listing options such as masks worn by all event staff and volunteers, social distancing seating options of up to 6 feet at the venue and no intermission to reduce crowds and mingling at the event.
Another question: “Are you personally willing to wear a mask for the duration of a 75- to 90-minute performance?”
The survey represents an effort to gather input as the organizations plan their fall offerings. Jonathan Pasternack, the Symphony’s conductor and music director, has outlined a five-concert series to begin in November. Kayla Oakes, executive director of JFFA, hopes to launch the new season with two performances in October. Local musicians and guest performers would appear together on the stage of the high school Performing Arts Center.
But first, the concert-going public needs to be heard. The survey is a way to listen — and “the next step in our decision-making,” Oakes said.
JFFA has nine performances planned. They range from “Cinderella” with the Eugene Ballet in October and “The Nutcracker” with Port Angeles’ Ballet Workshop in December to the Blues Is a Woman band on Feb. 28.
Pasternack, for his part, has redesigned the whole Symphony season. Concerts are planned for Nov. 7, Dec. 12, Feb. 20, March 27 and May 1, with two performances on each of the dates: one in the late morning and one in the evening, with audience sizes limited to allow for physical distancing.
Port Angeles Symphony guest soloists include New York City-based cellist Julian Schwarz, Seattle Symphony violinist Elisa Barston, Russian-born pianist Alexander Tutunov, vocalist Kristin K. Vogel and the Seattle duo the Sempre Sisters. Each concert will offer about one hour of music with no intermission, to reduce the crowding that can come at break time.
Both the Symphony and JFFA are seeking to follow their mission of presenting high-caliber live performances — in a new era of public health concern and uncertainty about the future.
Absent a vaccine for COVID-19, the concert presenters are having to rethink logistics from the ground up. In that, they’re grappling with the same things challenging orchestras and promoters across North America.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.