Like most performing arts organizations, the Montgomery Philharmonic had to cut short its 2019-2020 season, which ended with our February 2020 concert. While we did run our educational outreach program — the Youth Leadership and Chamber Music Festival — in summer 2020, we did so virtually. We did not have a 2020-2021 season or summer youth program, but we were fortunate to be able to rehearse and perform together in the summer of 2021 — outdoors, distanced, and masked.
We resumed rehearsals, outdoors, in the fall of 2021 — the start of our sixteenth season. When colder weather forced us indoors, we began to rehearse strings and woodwinds/brass on alternate weeks, bringing it all together for one final dress rehearsal before a concert at the beginning of December. Although our concerts are free, we’re now using a registration system to keep attendance at a level where we can comfortably distance, and we’re happy to say that we had a good-sized audience turn out to hear us.
Our music director observed the Berlin Philharmonic using an unusual seating arrangements which placed woodwinds and brass at the front of the orchestra in a semi-circle (where the strings would normally go) and arranging the strings behind them. She decided that we’d experiment with it, as it provides better aerosol control. It had the unexpected effect of making it easier to blend our sounds in our usual performance venue (the sanctuary of Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church), and offering a startling amount of transparency in the sound, which we and our audience certainly appreciated.
We’re going to be starting rehearsals for our second concert of the season after the holidays. We’ve got three concerts planned this season — a less busy season than we’ve had in the past. These shorter programs, performed without an intermission, are easier to prepare and perform in a risk-adjusted fashion. The programs are quite interesting and unusual this season — mixing the unjustly neglected works of diverse lesser-known composers with better-known classics.
Many other community orchestras in our area have not been fortunate enough to be able to return to regular rehearsals and performances, and we’re grateful to our hosts for the opportunity. (And we’ve been doing our part by requiring vaccination for all orchestra members, masking, and being meticulous about staying physically distanced when we play.)
We are currently accepting new members. If you play an instrument, please consider joining us, even if it’s just for the remainder of the season while you wait for your usual ensemble to resume its activities!