gbs1During March 2020, to stem the pandemic, performance spaces where closed leaving many arts groups, including the Georgian Bay Symphony, with no place to perform. However, the GBS finished their season with two virtual concerts, a feat almost no other orchestra in Canada was able to accomplish! And the Symphony was one of the first orchestras in the country to announce a full season for 2020-21. It all started at the beginning of the lockdown with an iPhone and Facebook Live.gbs2

Within two weeks of the shutdown, in March, the Symphony hosted its first digital event on Facebook Live. Former GBS violinist, Samantha Orr, now a student at Western, went live with a few piano and violin pieces. Over the following few weeks, a variety of young musicians streamed live on the GBS Facebook page. Building on the success of these events, Ms. Orr and the GBS Manager, David Adair, planned a live streamed “concert” featuring GBS players and friends for the end of March. This event was an overwhelming success with hundreds of views and lots of heart and clapping emojis appearing on screen during the stream.

gbs3As the lockdown continued, it became obvious that regularly schedules concerts where not going to take place. The Board and staff of the Symphony, now meeting almost weekly through Zoom, struggled with what to do. There were two concerts left in the season and subscribers where expecting them. Many orchestras and other musical groups had started to post short videos across social media. With the success that other groups where having with this and the success the GBS was already having with streaming events, it did not take long for the idea of finishing the season digitally to evolve.

At around this same time the Grey County Kiwanis Music Festival was cancelled, leaving many disappointed participants. The Symphony reached out to the Festival with a unique idea allowing Festival participants to submit performance videos to the orchestra’s social media. This was also a success.

In April the GBS Board made the decision to finish the 2019/20 season with two virtual concerts. Both appeared as YouTube Premier events and the number of people watching from home was close to the regular concert audience. Within days, thousands had watched the concerts.gbs4

These digital concerts required community players to learn new skills and rehearse apart, in entirely different ways. Rehearsals now took place as Zoom meetings. Each musician had to record themselves playing while isolated at home. Some musicians, because of rural internet speeds, had to travel to wifi hotspots in order to upload their videos and even participated in Zoom rehearsals from their cars.

The GBS is a community orchestra, consisting of mainly amateur musicians from around Grey/Bruce. They demonstrated that they were up to the challenge of taking their high quality musicianship digital. With these two successful digital concerts, under their belt, the GBS is excited to offer a virtual season for 2020-21. The first of six digital events beginning October 24 and will showcase the symphony’s brass section. Rehearsals for this, and upcoming concerts, are already underway. The entire series is on sale through the GBS office at 519-372-0212. Familiar pieces of music have been chosen for the season and the digital concerts will also include musician interviews, behind the scene videos, pre-concert chats
and a surprised guest or two. More information about the upcoming season is available on the GBS website.

source: media release, Georgian Bay Symphony


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