PORTSMOUTH — Following multiple canceled shows in its 28th season, the Portsmouth Wind Symphony will host its first performance of the year Saturday at Shawnee State University’s Vern Riffe Center for the Arts.
Starting at 7:30 p.m. works ranging from Phantom of the Opera to John Williams’ “Summon the Heroes” and more will be the focus of the wind symphony’s “We’re Back – Live Music Returns to the VRCFA!” concert.
On Friday, conductor Terry Thompson said it was nice to finally have a performance, although altered due to the pandemic, to look forward to after not performing since December 2019.
“We’re excited about finally getting back to performing,” he said in a phone interview. “The opportunity to make live music at the Vern Riffe Center is exciting for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
PWS will open its performance with a tribute to those that have been on the front lines during COVID-19 with the Williams’ piece, which was originally written for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Over the past year plus, Thompson said those in public health, fire and police departments, emergency responders, and essential workers have really stepped up when needed.
“We want to do that in honor of all the folks who have worked so hard to get us through this pandemic,” he said, serving as the conductor and music director since 2014.
Historical pieces like the folk song “Red River Valley” and “The Liberty Bell” from John Phillip Souza are joined with one untitled composition that will be having its world premiere.
Originally scheduled to open in March 2020, the untitled march will be led by guest conductor John Johnson of Ashland. For the time being, Thompson said they have called it the “Portsmouth March” but are still looking for one officially.
“There could be a contest at some point to name the march,” he said.
COVID-19 limited the number of rehearsals for PWS to just seven, starting back up in March following approval from SSU and the Portsmouth City Health Department to use the university’s facilities. In those 12 months away from group sessions, performers had to practice from home while its October and Christmas concerts were canceled.
As City Auditor and PWS Treasurer and horn player Trent Williams explained, these rehearsals have been moved to the main stage of the Eloise Covert Smith Theater instead of the Howland Recital Hall on the third floor of VRCFA.
To allow for a safe performance, social distancing of both the audience and performers will be in place. 6 feet of distance between the 32 musicians in all directions Thompson said takes up most if not all of the stage space.
“It’s been an adventure to make this happen,” he said, masks also required for all attending.
Based on a study conducted by the University of Colorado, Williams added that numerous precautions- masks while not playing, instrument bell covers to minimize air emitted from the bells of the horns- will be followed onstage Saturday night.
Ticket prices range from $10 for adults, $5 for SSU students and children over the age of 12, and free for children under the age of 12. Tickets can be bought online at the VRCFA website (vrcfa.com) or at the door which opens at 7 p.m.
The next concert for PWS is scheduled for the Fourth of July, also starting at 7:30 p.m. before the fireworks, at Spartan Municipal Stadium joining with the Friends of Portsmouth. This is a free event and guests are told to bring lawn chairs.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter
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