After emerging "From a New World" in its 107th season, dealing with continuous pandemic mitigation and making changes to become a more accessible and equitable organization, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra will celebrate resilience with "The Triumphant Spirit," the new season opening this fall.
Quad City Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Brian Baxter said planning a season starts years in advance, with plenty of moving parts.
In just this past week, he and the symphony orchestra juggled the last Masterworks show of the 107th season, making preparations for the 108th season and finalizing aspects of the 109th season.
"I feel like I'm living in three different time planes at any given time …" Baxter said. "It's sort of an ever-evolving, ongoing process."
Symphony subscribers can buy tickets and packages to 2022-23 season shows, and the general public will have access to tickets starting May 17. They can be purchased online or through the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Box Office.
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Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops will celebrate 40 years Aug. 20 with the music of Elton John. The symphony has performed music from the artist before, and Baxter said people have been asking to see it again, and they are excited to oblige.
The symphony's 108th season will open Oct. 1 with the first Masterworks show, "Ode to Joy." It will feature "Ode," a 21st century response to Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th Symphony, before a performance of Beethoven's work. This performance, one of six Masterworks performances, is a perfect encapsulation of the season's theme, Baxter said.
The Up Close chamber music series will feature five groups performing across the Quad-Cities from September through April, from the Raccoon Motel to River Music Experience to the Figge Art Museum. Baxter said this series, the successor to the signature series, allows the community to interact with music in a more intimate setting, and forges deeper connections between the symphony and other local organizations.
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "Beauty and the Beast" are the featured QCSO at the Movies pieces this season, performed in-concert in November and May, respectively.
Other performances include the holiday brass concerts in December, a roaring '20s soiree, and a two-act chamber opera based on the stories of two Holocaust survivors, called "Two Remain (Out of Darkness)."
Baxter said expectations for the 2021-22 season had to change due to COVID-19 variants. They were able to pivot and had some concerts sell very well, with more new ticket buyers than in "some time." They want to take those successes and spread them across the whole season.
"We're looking at next season as a major marker of needing to get back to the levels we want to be at," Baxter said. "And not just stop there, not just get back to sort of the pre-pandemic attendance levels, as just one example, but be positioned for growth."
Expansions announced during the 107th season put the symphony in a good position for growth. Baxter said they're being more intentional about presenting music from a diverse group of composers and performers, the culmination of years of discussion. The Concert Access Pass program implemented last season allows people utilizing services from certain local nonprofits to receive free tickets to shows, making the symphony more accessible to the community.
The symphony is undergoing internal expansion as well, transforming one of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles from a string ensemble to a concert orchestra. This will give more students the opportunity to learn from the symphony.
When planning a season, the theme generally comes together as specific shows are scheduled. It can be difficult to tie all the performances under one topic, but with how the symphony had to handle an ever-changing pandemic and expanding access, the music and the feelings of the musicians and staff came together to fit "The Triumphant Spirit."
"There's a lot of different types of pieces of music, but in the end, it's all about how the collective of what we put together is greater than just simply the sum of its parts," Baxter said.