Michael Francis conducts all January concerts at the Mahaffey Theater; TFO debuts on WEDU with Inside Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 on Dec. 18   

The Florida Orchestra has announced a slate of concerts in January as it continues to roll out its re-imagined 2020/21 season in phases. All January concerts – 16 performances of six programs – will be conducted exclusively by Music Director Michael Francis at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg following strict CDC guidelines for health and safety. In addition to in-person concerts, TFO will continue to offer live-stream and on-demand video for free so everyone has access to the music during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“After nearly eight months, Maestro Michael Francis and The Florida Orchestra made a triumphant return to the stage in October. So many of you were right there with us, cheering us on from your seat at the Mahaffey Theater – or the couch in your living room for our first-ever live stream,” said TFO President & CEO Mark Cantrell. “From all of us at The Florida Orchestra, thank you for your enthusiastic support of our most unique season yet. Yes, the concert experience is different, but the music is more powerful than ever.”

The Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series continues in January with Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony on a program that features TFO violinists Nancy Chang and Sarah Shellman for Bach’s Concerto for Two ViolinsRachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini concert spotlights virtuoso guest pianist Natasha Paremski, and also includes artwork by TFO visual artist-in-residence Geff Strik for Ravel’s Mother Goose Ballet. The New Year’s in Vienna concert will have performances in both the Raymond James Pops and Coffee series.

The orchestra is offering two new Masterworks: Soundwaves programs in January on the same weekends as traditional Masterworks programs. Why offer five concerts in one weekend? It’s the result of Maestro Francis splitting the orchestra into two smaller ensembles of 20-40 players for greater spacing onstage. The silver lining: twice the music, including works TFO doesn’t often get the chance to perform. For example, The Intimate Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (Jan. 30 & 31) offers a stellar version of Mahler’s most intimate symphony, arranged for an ensemble of just 14 players.

All health and safety measures will continue for Phase 2 concerts in January, including mandatory face masks that cover the nose and mouth, spaced seating in pairs, extensive testing for musicians and frequent sanitizing of equipment and seats. Concerts will be shorter with no intermission only at The Duke Energy Center for the Arts/Mahaffey Theater with 25 percent capacity. (For safety details, click here.) The protocols developed in conjunction with the Mahaffey Theater have worked so well that TFO believes this is the best way to provide maximum safety during the pandemic. The orchestra hopes to expand to other venues later in the season, depending on the virus.

For full flexibility, the orchestra is announcing its 53rd season in phases. Phase 1 runs through the end of December, including Classical Christmas (Dec. 16, 17 & 20), which also will be live streamed for free on Dec. 20. For details on upcoming concerts, click here.

Phase 2 encompasses January concerts only and will have limited, spaced seating for the safety of patrons. TFO will accommodate season ticket holders first, and any remaining tickets will go on sale Dec. 21. Look for an announcement of Phase 3 concerts in January.

Free live-streaming concerts: From the safety of home, anyone can watch select concerts via live stream or on demand. It’s free and easy to register; see our guide at FloridaOrchestra.org/livestreams. To support this new service, TFO is encouraging donations so we can continue to offer digital concerts with no barriers during the pandemic and beyond. For Phase 2, these three concerts will be available for viewing on any device. • Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, Sat, Jan 9, 8 pm • Rachmaninoff on Paganini, Sat, Jan 23, 8 pm • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, Sat, Jan 30, 8 pm

The Florida Orchestra debuts on WEDU Dec. 18: The Florida Orchestra will have its premiere broadcast on WEDU-PBS with Inside Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, recorded live at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. The broadcast on Dec. 18 at 9 pm will feature insight from Music Director Michael Francis and a full performance of the symphony in honor of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth this month. Funding for the program is provided by William and Suzanne Garth, Charlene and Mardy Gordon, Barry and Judith Alpert and Family, and the Hough Family Foundation.