Reopening your Orchestra, part 1 with Chris Walroth

Top Tips from “Reopening Your Orchestra: Part I”

On August 14, Orchestras Canada hosted a webinar with Toronto Symphony Orchestra Production Manager Chris Walroth. Chris shared some key insights on how orchestras should be planning for a safe re-opening. While it’s hard to condense his presentation and the resulting discussion into just a few short points, here are some highlights.

1. You need to know the public health regulations in place in your municipality, province, and country.

2. You need a customized plan that takes into account the specifics of your orchestra

Reopening your orchestra safely requires planning and consultation with artists, organizers, operators and permit holders. You are responsible for assessing risks and implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection among all who participate in your activities, whether they’re paid or volunteers, whether they’re artists, backstage workers, administrators, or board members.

3. Slow down, and maintain safe bubbles

We know that longer contact between people increases the risk of transmission, and so we need to reduce the length of contact as well as the number of people who are working in the same space. Slow the process down, work with fewer people at the same time, take longer to do the job, and allow only mission-critical people to work in any given area.

4. Communication is Key

Communication and enforcement are the most challenging aspects of reopening safely. We all have routines and are used to working in a certain way, but reopening is a team effort that requires everyone to be on board 100%. Be consistent, be persistent, and embody the behaviours that you want to see others adopting.

5. Document and Organize Everything

We’re in a chaotic and fluid time, and the science and interpretation of the science) continue to evolve. Be organized, document your actions and interactions carefully, and try to over-prepare. This will enable you to concentrate the necessary energy on contact tracing and other new protocols that will need to be in place when you reopen.

6. Best Practices for Orchestras

Sharing of equipment (from chairs and stands to percussion equipment, and more) must be discouraged. Rehearsal procedures should be re-examined to minimize duration of exposure, and the number of people who are working together at one time. The flow of concerts should be examined, with consideration of shorter concerts with no intermission. PPE such as face masks should be mandatory for everyone until they’re seated in place on stage and ready to play. And, as Chris said, “wherever there is great art, there is also a lot of garbage!” Make sure you’re making it as easy as possible for your people to wash their hands, and safely dispose of items they’ve touched.

Orchestras Canada will continue to monitor the state of safe re-opening in jurisdictions across Canada, and we look forward to continuing the discussion and the learning with you!

Presentation slides: Reopening Your Orchestra Chris Walroth – Slides

Bibliography: Reopening Your Orchestra Chris Walroth – Bibliography