© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cleveland Orchestra Cancels Summer Concerts, Looks To Fall

This 2016 shot is a reminder that this year's Blossom Festival season was set to kick off on July 4th weekend [Roger Mastroianni / The Cleveland Orchestra]
Fireworks burst over the Blossom Music Center pavilion in July 2016

The Cleveland Orchestra is canceling all performances scheduled for this summer due to COVID-19 health concerns for both audience members and musicians.

The 2020 Blossom Music Festival, plus a series of summer concerts at Severance Hall and the annual Star Spangled Spectacular downtown, are the latest cancellations as the pandemic continues. Orchestra CEO Andre Gremillet says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about returning in the fall, but even then the audience will probably be limited.

“The concept of having 2,000 people in one space, I think is very unlikely,” he said. “So, we're looking at ways to hopefully perform for limited audiences, but also to livestream some of our performances so that we can reach our audience at home as well.”

As mandates for social distancing and reduced gatherings continue, Gremillet said there’s a new urgency to reach out to audiences in new ways.

“35 percent of our of our revenue is ticket sales, so it's significant,” he said.

Last month, the orchestra launched a $6 million fundraising campaign, along with salary cuts and layoffs to help tide the organization over after shutting down operations in March. The cancellation of Blossom concerts prompted the creation of another fundraising effort. Gremillet said the fundraising was going well, without getting into specifics. Thanks to federal relief assistance, the 39 laid-off staffers will return on June 1.

Gremillet said it’s hard to be sure about prospects for the fall.

“That's what I keep telling the institution as a whole. We need to, to learn to live with this uncertainty,” he said. “So much will be dependent on how the next month goes. As a society slowly opening, how well that goes, I think, will be a great determinant to what we can do in the coming months.”

The orchestra is due to launch its fall season on September 17. That will not only depend on the state of the pandemic, but also on the ability of some key artists to fly to Cleveland, including conductor Franz Welser Most, currently working out of his home in Austria.

The orchestra also hopes to reschedule Star Spangled Spectacular to a future date this year.

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.