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Plymouth orchestra says it’s on with the show ... maybe

Music director Steven Karidoyanes conducts the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra announced its new concert season despite uncertainties about ongoing restrictions on live indoor arts programs.
Music director Steven Karidoyanes conducts the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra announced its new concert season despite uncertainties about ongoing restrictions on live indoor arts programs.Denise Maccaferri

The Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra has released its concert schedule for 2020-21 with a season opener to be performed on the weekend of Oct. 3 and 4.

However, it has canceled its Aug. 8 program to celebrate Plymouth’s 400th anniversary, which was originally planned for March.

While the highly regarded regional orchestra’s planners have no crystal ball to tell them what the state’s rules on social distancing may (or may not) require months from now, the orchestra is sticking with its plan for some big nights in big halls, “until we’re told not to,” music director Steven Karidoyanes said recently.

The orchestra and its board plan concert seasons a full year in advance, because of the logistical considerations and financial requirements involved in staging full orchestral performances, Karidoyanes said. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic still makes it impossible to plan with certainty, he mused,, “Can’t we still aspire to do what we can when we all come back?”

If the state’s four-phased reopening plan does not permit large indoor gathering by the new season’s dates, “We’ll find other ways to bring the music to our audience,” the music director said.

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Promotional materials for the 2020-21 season already were in production back in late February, Karidoyanes said. “Then, of course, ‘this happened.’ It puts a stop to everything, and it’s open-ended.

“You know the saying,” he added. “‘Man plans, God laughs.' Then we asked, ‘What is the right thing to do, and what is the prudent thing?‘”

While the orchestra still hopes to be able to perform in its scheduled venues, Memorial Hall and Plymouth North High School auditorium, changes may be required, Karidoyanes said.

“Of course safety is number one,” he said. “We are not going to jeopardize audiences and musicians ... It’s the new normal. We don’t know how live performing arts fits into this.”

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Current social distance requirements apply not only to audiences but to performers, he pointed out. A 6-foot distancing rule would bar the traditional arrangement of the orchestra on stage. Two string players would no longer be able to share the same music stand. Some stages would not be spacious enough to hold a full-sized orchestra.

A move to online concerts could be considered, Karidoyanes said, “as we look to the fall and what’s possible.” As compared to large urban orchestras with extensive schedules and big payrolls, he said, “we are a small nimble ship.”


The October concert celebrates the 250th birthday of Beethoven, arguably the most popular and influential composer in the classical music canon. The program includes Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto” with guest artist Alexander Velinzon on loan from the Boston Symphony, and the famously dramatic “Symphony No. 5.″

A composer as well as the orchestra’s conductor, Karidoyanes is writing a prelude for this program based on all the orchestral references to “Ode to Joy” from “Symphony No. 9,” the familiar choral passage that concludes the work.

Among the season’s other scheduled concerts, the Nov. 14 program titled “Two Worlds in Hopeful Harmony” features a tone poem by Singer titled “Wampanoag Stories for All Time” and “Mayflower,” a work by Alex Berko based on the Mayflower Compact, regarded as the New World’s first charter for self-government, along with Dvorak’s popular “New World” symphony. The program includes narration by Jonathan James Perry on “Wampanoag Stories,” and Josh Delaney on “Mayflower.”

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So far, Karidoyanes said, both subscription sales and donations are equaling last year’s levels, with ticket purchases coming from throughout the South Shore region, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, the Worcester area, and north of Boston.

For full concert season and ticket information see the orchestra’s website, plymouthphil.org.

Robert Knox can be contacted at rc.knox2@gmail.com.

This story has been updated.