As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts community, like many others, has struggled to regain its footing in recent months due to the risk of hosting and attending events and public gatherings. The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, a long-time staple in the local arts community, is preparing for its upcoming 2020-21 season, which will begin in October, and hopes to safely overcome the obstacles the pandemic has laid out for all performing arts organizations.
The Bach Festival Society plans to allow attendees to choose between viewing this season’s events in person or virtually. While the organization hopes this setup will allow patrons the option to safely attend the live events, planned to be held in Tiedtke Concert Hall at Rollins College, Executive Director Betsy Gwinn recognizes that the situation is fluid. “These are plans today, and like for everybody else, they could change,” Gwinn said. “If it looks like it cannot be done safely for our artists, guests or surrounding community, we will pivot again.”
Typically, the society is best known for the Bach Festival Choir, a highly reputable and advanced group of singers who audition and volunteer their time to perform famous choral compositions, working in harmony with world-class composers and musicians. Under current circumstances, however, it has not been feasible for the choir to safely hold rehearsals and performing for an audience would prove even more of a challenge.
In order to steer its programming toward a format more viable for social distancing, the society has planned individual and small group performances, starting with pianist Adam Golka on October 1. With only one performer on stage and a reduced capacity for in-person seating of only 25 percent, the society will be able to abide by COVID-19 safety guidelines. The organization’s artistic director and conductor, John V. Sinclair, has undergone extensive planning with the college to ensure intake and outtake areas as well as air flow are managed appropriately. The events will also have temperature checks, require face masks, and utilize paper-free tickets and programs.
“This has been such a challenging time for everybody, [and] I hope that we can present some kind of normalcy through the celebration of music for people to enjoy,” Gwinn said. “We are doing as much as we can as safely as we can and we hope that people participate at whatever level they are comfortable with, but we are excited to start our 86th season.”