The Boston Symphony Orchestra returned to live public music-making Thursday for the first time since mid-March. Yet rather than holding forth from the ensemble’s storied stage, on a sunny and mild morning, four bemasked string players climbed aboard one of Boston’s iconic Duck Boats and took to the city streets.
With public health officials still cautioning against indoor cultural events, the cruise was part of an initiative the orchestra is calling Rolling Recitals. Over the course of the day, a total of seven musicians performed in four locations, including outside the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletics Center in Roxbury and the Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, where dog owners and dogs were particularly well-represented in the gathered audience.
Members of the orchestra have often appeared in neighborhood recitals in recent seasons, but never after such a long hiatus. Concerns over coronavirus forced the cancellation of the orchestra’s Asia tour in February, and the worsening conditions prompted the cancellation of its spring, summer, and fall seasons. Between mid-March and late-November, a total of 316 concerts and events were canceled, leading to a loss in revenue of $35 million, pay cuts for musicians, and layoffs for some administrative staff.
The first quartet to board their amphibious vehicle Thursday was made up of BSO violinists Bonnie Bewickand Tatiana Dimitriades, violist Cathy Basrak, and cellist Mickey Katz. They traveled to their first stop with police escort, and performed selections by Mozart and Scott Joplin, including an arrangement of “Solace.”
The title appears to capture the straightforward goal of the project, according to Leslie Wu Foley, the BSO’s director of education and community engagement, speaking by phone from outside the animal hospital. “Everyone is just so excited to get back to making music," she said, "with each other and for audiences — and their pets!”