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Arizona Friends takes season online, Pops and Winds call off fall seasons

Arizona Friends takes season online, Pops and Winds call off fall seasons

Arizona Friends of Chamber Music is taking its 2020-21 season to the virtual stage beginning with its season opener in October.

Meanwhile, two popular fall outdoor concert series — Tucson Pops Orchestra at Reid Park and Arizona Symphonic Winds at Udall Park — are canceled.

All of this comes as Tucson arts organizations grapple with the reality that holding in-person events is not tenable given COVID-19 restrictions that limit gathering sizes and require social distancing. Tucson Pops, for example, routinely attracts crowds in the thousands to its outdoor concert series that it presents in the spring and fall.

“The fall is out,” Pops/Winds Music Director László Veres said. “I don’t think anything is going to happen until next spring.”

“It’s just not going to be possible ... to have concert hall space available and arrangements set up that will be safe enough for both our audience and musicians to really be safe,” added Joseph Tolliver, the recently installed Friends president.

Tolliver, who took over the Arizona Friends top job in late March, said the group will go forward with its already announced season lineup, but instead of the artists performing on the stage of the 511-seat Leo Rich Theatre downtown, they will perform from their home base and the concerts will be streamed on YouTube and Vimeo. The premiere of each concert will include live-streamed interviews with the artists and Friends board members as well as other content, Tolliver said.

The Friends’ decision comes after it canceled its summer concert series, which was the brainchild of former AFCM President James Reel. The Friends in 2018 launched the summertime series, a handful of concerts held outside of the group’s Leo Rich home.

“It was just unclear and not getting any clearer over the next weeks whether it was going to be possible to conduct concerts in Leo Rich,” Tolliver said. “It just made it look like an impossibility to put on concerts for anything more than a fraction of the audience and it didn’t look like it would be terribly safe to put on a concert” under the current COVID-19 protocols.

Arizona Friends, which will open the season Oct. 17 with the Auryn Quartet, has been presenting chamber music concerts for more than 70 years.

Next year’s Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival also is canceled. Instead the group will present three concerts in March incuding one with the Sitkovetsky Trio that was supposed to headline the festival.

Veres, in concert with his boards of directors, pulled the plug on his twin spring parks series in mid-April, weeks ahead of the first performances.

He said they canceled the fall largely because city facilities are still shut down.

In addition to losing its fall Music Under the Stars series, the Tucson Pops Orchestra also will not perform its annual Veterans Day concert in November — the first time it has been canceled in nearly 35 years, Veres said.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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