Orion Ensemble to launch season in Aurora with both live and virtual concert

The pandemic has challenged all of us to find the “next best thing” in so many circumstances – and music is no different, announced The Orion Ensemble, as it prepares to open its 29th season.

Concert organizers said Orion is thrilled to offer a full season this year, playing live at its three usual locations: Aurora, Evanston and Chicago. And at Chicago and in Evanston (Nichols Hall), Orion also will continue to livestream its concerts, at no charge, a news release stated.

The award-winning chamber music group, which performed for many years in Geneva, features:

  • Florentina Ramniceanu, violin
  • Judy Stone, cello
  • Kathryne Pirtle, clarinet
  • Diana Schmück, piano

“There’s nothing that can replace live music; that is a given,” Orion’s clarinetist, Kathy Pirtle, stated in the release. “But livestreaming has allowed us to reach people who can’t get to our concerts in person – for many different reasons.”

Orion performed its first live and livestreamed concert from its Chicago venue, PianoForte, which was an easy transition. Long before COVID, founder and Executive Director Thomas Zoells designed PianoForte Studios with the highest-quality equipment to be able to livestream concerts as part of his offerings, according to the release. Given that the venue size is small, as safe congregating and playing slowly opened up, Orion was able to perform a live concert at PianoForte for a small number of audience members that was also livestreamed, meaning it could be viewed online on YouTube.

While not the same as experiencing the magic of live music, viewing concerts remotely has obvious benefits – and can create its own magic. One listener who watched an Orion concert livestreamed was so moved that she emailed Orion to let the ensemble know how important listening to the music had become to her during a difficult time.

It was an easy decision for Orion to keep livestreaming its music this season – and the ensemble probably will continue to do so. Rather than a replacement of live music, Pirtle views it as expanding Orion’s reach.

“For us to be able to reach out to people and offer this place of joy, solace, camaraderie and community is what we all need,” she says, noting that when there is technology capable of producing high-quality sound that allows people who can’t get to concerts the ability to access them, Orion should use it.

Orion welcomes people to view its livestreamed concerts at no charge. Pirtle notes that some viewers have chosen to make a donation as they are able, but this is completely optional.

Not just for Orion, but for many classical music groups, it appears that offering livestreaming as a concert experience option may be here to stay.

“To me, the impact of the music is so much stronger when you are in the presence of people in the same space,” Pirtle says. “But people are still connecting through livestreaming, so why not?”

The live performances begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 in Aurora at the New England Congregational Church, 406 W. Galena Blvd. The concert will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 in Chicago; and 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in Evanston. For details and tickets, visit orionensemble.org.