Springfield arts center reopens with live symphony concert

The halls of the Clark State Performing Arts Center’s Kuss Auditorium echoed with the sounds of a live performance for the first time in more than seven months on Friday evening.

A crowd of 125 attendees listened to the music of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra during its “Welcome Home” concert. The show was anticipated by attendees and left officials of the performing arts center and orchestra gratified to present again.

“Where have you been?” symphony conductor Peter Stafford Wilson jokingly asked the audience following the first number. “We’re glad to see you folks. We’re delighted to be back and grateful to Clark State and the performing arts center for bringing us back.”

Plenty of preparation went into the show to follow safety guidelines for guests, musicians and staff members. These included staggered arrival times for guests, no gathering in the lobby, no concessions served, seating spaced apart for social distancing, and masks required for all.

Seating capacity was limited to 225 people.

Even the musicians and Wilson wore masks, except the brass and woodwind players, who played behind special divider shields for protection.

Despite Clark County being raised to a level 3 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, SSO fans longed for that live experience again. An email sent to ticketholders outlining the safety protocols proved reassuring to Matt and Jo Anderson of Springfield, longtime symphony season subscribers.

“I was missing it and I was hopeful (it would go on),” Jo Anderson said prior to the show. “I hope it’s good for the musicians, too. I think people are being careful. Just being able to get out again is special; it’s something we haven’t done much."

The show was also livestreamed. Yet for 15-year season subscriber Joan Geil, it just wouldn’t be the same without being there.

“I knew they would be cautious with their safety measures. Music is something spiritual," Geil said. "You have to hear it yourself.”

The live show was a point of pride for symphony Executive Director Lou Ross as most, if not all, of Ohio’s symphony orchestras he knows of have only performed virtually thus far, he said.

The program was created for a smaller group of 18 musicians and will likely follow that format in future shows.

While the arts center has presented a range of live outdoor entertainment since June, Executive Director Adele Adkins was especially glad for this date, pleading with the audience not to go home during an intermission address.

“When the music started, I started crying,” she said. “Thanks for trusting us with your safety.”

The SSO will present future concerts at the performing arts center, including the Youth Symphony on Nov. 23, a holiday program by the Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra on Dec. 5 and more concerts similar to this starting in January.

“Tonight was like throwing out the first pitch in a ball game,” Ross said. “There’s nothing like being here in person. It was a fine program. The audience was appreciative and we are ready to do more.”

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