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Colorado Symphony Cancels Concerts, Launches Virtual Platform

The Colorado Symphony is launching a virtual concert series.EXPAND
The Colorado Symphony is launching a virtual concert series.
Brandon Marshall

COVID-19 continues to batter Denver's classical-music institutions.

On November 12, the Colorado Symphony announced it would be scrapping most of its Boettcher Concert Hall concerts through May 30, in a massive hit to the nonprofit orchestra's budget.

"Not being able to have in-person performances in any meaningful capacity for the next few months is obviously not ideal, and it makes fundraising that much more important for us," says Colorado Symphony spokesperson Nick Dobroff. 

To try to bring in revenue and keep classical music alive over the next few months, on December 1 the organization will launch the Colorado Symphony Virtual Stage. There patrons can pay to watch videos of archival performances and also never-seen-before shows that were recorded safely, without an audience, through the fall at Boettcher.

"We'll be focusing on creating content that can be monetized through that and then putting a lot of effort into end-of-year fundraising," says Dobroff. "That's our focus for the time being."

This is a big shift for the symphony, which managed to break a record at Red Rocks Amphitheatre this summer as the musical group with the most performances in a season in the landmark venue's history — even if those shows were limited to around 175 people a pop. At the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Zoo and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the symphony managed to put on nearly forty more in-person, socially
distanced concerts in 2020.

The Colorado Symphony has also offered free streaming content throughout the past few months, including a stirring, socially distanced performance of "Ode to Joy."

Patrons who'd already bought tickets for now-canceled concerts will be given a variety of options regarding what to do with their tickets — including donating refunds back to the symphony, a move that could help keep the institution alive.

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These cancellations are not just bad news for the orchestra and its patrons. Denver Arts & Venues, which runs the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where Boettcher is located, also makes most of its revenue from rentals. This means the agency's budget is also going to suffer.

Despite it all, the Colorado Symphony Association, which runs the orchestra, remains optimistic about the creative and financial possibilities of the virtual platform.

"The CSA remains committed to capturing content without audiences for digital release, and when weather permits it will continue bringing limited-capacity, in-person, outdoor socially distanced concerts to our community," the nonprofit explained in an announcement of the cancellations. "Along with our trustees and philanthropic partners, we will continue to navigate the challenges ahead with an unshakable commitment to create as many extraordinary live and virtual musical experiences for Coloradoans as restrictions for public health and safety allow."  

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