Coronavirus concerns lead to a homegrown SPCO 2020-21 season 

SPCO performs Handel's Messiah in 2016.
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performs Handel's "Messiah" in 2016.

Due to safety and financial concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will perform its entire 2020-21 season without guest artists, including the ensemble's artistic partners who come in for a number of weeks every year to collaborate and perform. 

SPCO artistic director and principal violinist Kyu-Young Kim said everyone in the organization is disappointed, but understanding. He said the orchestra will still present a very strong season.

"Because we've been moving already in the direction of many SPCO musician-led concerts, many conductor-less concerts, we were able to react quickly to what was going on,” he said. “And we knew we would need maximum flexibility and knew it was going to be a very challenging year financially."

The SPCO is unusual in that it does not have a music director, but chooses its repertoire through a musician committee, and in collaboration with a group of world-class performers known as the “artistic partners” who make a multiyear commitment to appear with the ensemble. Kim said it’s a disappointment not to have them and the other guest partners as part of the season. 

"We enjoy working with them so much,” he said. “But we also knew that we could put on a great season, and given the challenging circumstances, we knew this was the best way for the SPCO to emerge really strong.” 

The season will feature 15 SPCO musicians as soloists, and six premieres in addition to holiday favorites including Handel’s “Messiah” and the “Brandenburg Concertos.” The ensemble will feature a new arrangement of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” written by the SPCO’s principal horn James Faree. There will also be the world premiere of St. Paul composer and performer PaviElle French’s second SPCO commission, “Sands of Time.”

The SPCO plans to present more than 100 concerts during the season at 11 different venues. The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 11, but Kim said the safety of patrons, musicians and staff is paramount, and alternate arrangements will be made as necessary. 

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!