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Symphony cancels the remainder of its 2020 performances due to the pandemic, but expects to return in 2021

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON SYMPHONY - The Oregon Symphony's annual visit to Newberg next year is safe for the time being, despite the announcement on July 8 that the remainder of the popular musical organization's 2020 season of in-person concerts and events has been canceled.

The Oregon Symphony's annual visit to Newberg next year is safe for the time being, despite the announcement on July 8 that the remainder of the popular musical organization's 2020 season of in-person concerts and events has been canceled.

"At this time, Oregon Symphony plans to resume performances in January, maintaining the current 2021 schedule, and will share updates as necessary," a press release from the sympyhony said.

The tradition of the symphony performing in Newberg dates back more than three decades to when legendary conductor James DePriest led the dozens of musicians in concerts held at Bauman Auditorium on the campus of George Fox University.

The annual event, typically in January or February, was sponsored by dental manufacturing giant A-dec Inc. with the guidance of its co-founder, Joan Austin. A-dec employees got first crack at the tickets, with the remainder being distributed to the public via the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce.

In the announcement last week, organizers said the symphony's remaining 43 performances in Portland and Salem had been canceled in recognition of the COVID-19 crisis. The setback follows the March furloughs and layoffs of staff and musicians, a move that was countered later when some employees were hired back using several million dollars from the federal Paycheck Prevention Program. That money, however, ran out in June, precipitating last week's announcement.

Oregon Symphony President and CEO Scott Showalter said he'd hoped the symphony could return for the fall season in October, but he now accepts that that is impossible.

"We are foremost concerned about the health and well-being of our musicians and patrons," he said. "Right now it has become clear that we will not be at that point come October."

The symphony lost $5 million in ticket sales for concerts that were scheduled between March and June. It is now absorbing the loss of another $4 million in advance sales on this fall's concert schedule.

So it's turning to Salem for help. The Oregon Emergency Board, a legislative body that typically gathers when the Legislature is not in session, is meeting soon to decide on more COVID-19 relief money. That conversation will include options for supporting arts organizations across the state.

Showalter said the symphony is hoping for seven months' worth of baseline support.

"My mantra to state officials and federal officials is, 'We need and deserve stabilization funding as well,'" he said, "because we know at the end of this pandemic, we are going to need arts and music more than ever before."

To try to soften the blow on fans of the symphony not being able to hear it in person, the organization has created two ongoing series that are streaming for free online —  "https://www.orsymphony.org/discover/watch-listen/essential-sounds/"Essential Sounds and  "https://www.orsymphony.org/discover/watch-listen/symphony-storytime/"Symphony Storytime.

Showalter said the symphony is considering all of its options for different types of performances in the near future, including outdoor performances and concerts with smaller ensembles.

In the meantime, Showalter is counting the days — and the dollars. "Even in our hunkered down state with furloughed musicians and laid off staff, we will need $3.5 million between now and the end of the year just to come back," he said.


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