In the Covid-19 era, a warehouse doubles as music hall

One of the ongoing casualties of the pandemic has been the performing arts. Musicians, singers, actors, and all their supporting lighting, directing, and stage personnel have been largely shut down for nearly a year as the contagion has prevented them from performing indoors.

Over the summer, the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra was able to hold its annual park series at Fort Thomas’ Tower Park, but as the indoor concert season approached, the pandemic was still raging and its 29th season appeared to be in jeopardy.

Time to be creative. Director J.R. Cassidy began imagining performing classical music in warehouses or vacant big box stores. He reached out to Paul Verst, owner of one of the region’s biggest logistics companies, for help.

Even though he calls himself more of a fan of classic country music, Verst was willing, and had plenty of warehouse space. His distribution center in Hebron would work nicely, but there was the problem of about 5 million bottles of Jose Cuervo that had to be trucked to their retail destinations first.

Fortunately, the tequila moved quickly enough for the KSO to perform its season-opening concert in the warehouse at the end of October.

Orchestra and audience were appropriately distanced and heated in the 60,000 square foot industrial space, “and the sound wasn’t bad either,” Cassidy says.

The KSO performed its next two series programs at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral Basilica in Cincinnati. But with a larger orchestra needed for its show this weekend featuring the music of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, a larger space was needed.

The music will return to the warehouse this Saturday, March 6, with Dvorák’s 7th Symphony in D minor opening the program and the composer’s Cello Concerto in B minor following. Fourteen-year-old cello prodigy Miriam K. Smith will make her KSO debut with her first performance of the concerto. She made her orchestral debut at age 8 and has since appeared as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony, Louisville, and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestras.

The Verst crew moved some pallets around and the symphony was able to rehearse in the cavernous space this week.

"It 's not often one can sit back, spread out and enjoy a music event with a feeling you are being taken back in time," Verst says. "The warehouse environment is a gem which just adds to the experience."

“Paul’s gracious generosity and hospitality allowed the KSO to continue to keep its contract musicians working and moving forward to share the uplifting gift of music with our community,” Cassidy says. “This sense of community is what kept me here and allowed me to start and grow the Symphony since 1992.”

Tickets for the show are $35. It will also be live streamed using multiple cameras, for the price of a single ticket. Tickets are available online at kyso.org, by phone at (859) 431-6216, or at the door.

 

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.
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