By Denny Patterson
Guided by the belief that music is pivotal to community engagement, the South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) brings vibrancy and innovation while strengthening public commitment to the arts.
Like millions of other performing arts venues across the world, the SFSO had to overcome the challenging hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, instead of canceling shows, the SFSO kept their season going by presenting orchestral concerts virtually and not playing back concerts that had been previously recorded in other seasons.
“We did all our Masterworks concerts and children’s concerts virtually, but it was an experience that, hopefully, we will never have to experience again,” Maestra Sebrina Alfonso says. “It certainly changed the way we look at things. We made sure that we had professional videographers and audio engineers, and we feel proud with what we put out to our patrons. The most interesting part of all this, because we were able to do virtual performances, I think in some ways, we reached many people beyond our group.”
Although the virtual performances were a success, Alfonso is ecstatic to bring back live-audience concerts for the orchestra’s 2021-2022 season.
“We missed our patrons and friends who love this music as much as we do,” she says. “Being able to share and feel their energy. We are looking forward to seeing our patrons who have been with us for years, and getting to know the new patrons who are starting to come and become a part of our family. There is something about the energy in a live performance that you get from the audience. That is special.”
Kicking off with a bang in November 2021, Masterworks I will feature Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, Mussorgsy’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, and a performance by celebrated violinist, Lara St. John. Masterworks II will feature Handel’s Messiah with baritone Neil Nelson, tenor Martin Nusspaumer, soprano Brittany Graham, mezzo-soprano Rehanna Thelwell, and the South Florida Symphony Chorus.
Audiences will hear Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique” and the world premiere of John Gottsch’s Princess Yurievskaya during Masterworks III, while Masterworks IV will deliver Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-Flat Major, K. 356, featuring Catherine Lan and Tao Lin, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Opus 56, “Scotch,” and Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers Overture.
The season will end in April 2022 with Masterworks V, which will feature Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, Mahler’s Adagietto from Symphony No. 5, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, “Eroica,” and a performance from clarinetist David Shifrin.
“We are trying to excite the audience and bring them music that they love,” Alfonso says. “We are still performing in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Key West. Depending on how COVID goes, we may add some other concerts that are more family-friendly and geared towards children. Since I started this orchestra over 20 years ago, we have always had children’s concerts.”
The upcoming season will bring another exciting change as the SFSO moves to The Parker, which is still part of the Broward Center family. A $30 million renovation has provided a new look and more seating capacity.
“We have played there before, and it’s funny because some people think The Parker is better,” Alfonso says. “We’ll see! We are there for the year, and if it works out, we will stay there. We like the idea of going in there with its brand-new look, mission, and being a part of that. We are very excited to have the opportunity. I think it will be a little more amenable and available for us. Like all the halls around us, we are going to try and fill up every day to make up for the losses. We certainly want to be a part of that and have access to any concert or event. The hall is larger, and I feel like that gives us the opportunity to have more people to come and make it more affordable. We give a lot of tickets for education and to a lot of students.”