The Blizzard Theatre’s auditorium seats will be empty Sunday at Elgin Community College, but the hall will be filled with music.
Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra members haven’t let the pandemic stop them, and on Sunday they will present Wanderers, a series of three livestreamed concerts.
Executive Director Eric Larson said that while many other groups have suspended operations or gone completely remote, EYSO has worked hard to bring their student musicians together safely.
“Throughout this season, I’ve heard from parents how important it has been that their students have this opportunity to make music together when most everything else in their lives has been turned upside down,” Larson said.
This is the second set of public performances in EYSO’s Myths & Legends series this season. This is the group’s 45th year.
More than 270 students from about 70 communities will play in various groupings during the 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. concerts. Details are at www.eyso.org/concert.
The free livestreamed concerts will feature students from all levels in a variety of ensembles.
Students had one of their final rehearsals Sunday at ECC, with hundreds of musicians spread out throughout the arts center and staggered over a nine-hour period. Large groups, like Philharmonia, were divided in half and played with 50 students at a time, practicing for 30 minutes, then taking a 15-minute break to let the room air out, said Emily Krasinski, membership coordinator and music librarian.
Students wore masks that were modified to fit the instrument they played. Some cut slits in disposable surgical masks, while others wore specially designed masks, such as a special bandanna for flutists, that were made by parent volunteers and the ECC costume department. The bells, or end pieces, of all wind instruments were equipped with special covers.
A former horn player for three years with EYSO, Krasinski said she tried out playing with the masks early on. “It’s definitely weird,” she said. “But they’ve adapted.”
Students are spaced out depending on what they play, with the standard 6 feet of spacing for strings and percussion and 10 feet for wind instruments.
Even with as much space as ECC has to offer, some orchestras are broken up in smaller groups. “You just get into a literal square footage issue,” she said.
While there is still another concert left in the season after Sunday, registration is open for students to audition for the 2021-22 season, Larson said. Auditions will take place May 27-30 at ECC.
“This pandemic has reinforced how important music and the arts in general can be to us,” he said. “That’s why we did what it took to deliver a full 2020-21 season and why we’re looking forward to next year.”