Together again: Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra returns to the stage

James Tucker describes rehearsing for concerts alone as “strange, not really the same.”

Tucker plays viola in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

After more than a year since their last performance, KSO has returned to the stage for concerts.

“Not being able to perform as an orchestra felt like a missing piece to a puzzle,” Tucker said. “When you don’t have that piece, everything just doesn’t feel right. … I’m excited that we can perform again together in person, and I’m looking forward to playing for an audience again sometime soon.”

The orchestra’s most recent concert was recorded in early March at Northern Illinois University’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. The concert is available for free viewing on KSO’s website, YouTube and social media pages.

The concert featured performances by the orchestra’s brass, woodwinds and string sections. The program included “March for Timpani and Brass,” by Brent Heisinger, “O Magnum Mysterium,” by Giovanni Gabrieli, “Serenade in D Minor, Op. 44,” by Antonin Dvorak and “Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48,” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The orchestra’s next concert will be held virtually at 7:30 p.m. May 8.

“We are offering this concert as another free gift to the community after a difficult year for everyone,” said Tamara Farrell, KSO music librarian and publicist. “We hope to resume selling tickets to an in-person audience next season.”

The orchestra also is offering special concert events at area residential facilities. The March concert can be viewed on their movie screens. Event nights have already been scheduled at Oak Crest - DeKalb Area Retirement Center and Barb City Manor.

To keep in accordance with health guidelines during the pandemic, the way the orchestra performs has changed. During concerts, musicians play socially distanced while on stage. They also wear face masks with mouth slits to play their instruments and use bell covers that filter the air that comes out of their instrument without distorting or muffling the sound. The concerts are recorded in separate sections with industrial fans filtering and circulating the air during intermissions.

Music director and conductor Linc Smelser said perform again on stage is a little strange, but exhilarating.

“I can’t express how great it is to finally be back on stage again, performing live for an audience,” Smelser said. “When the pandemic is over, I think there will be a renaissance of people wanting live performances: music concerts, dance recitals, plays, musicals and operas. We’re here now because we have a love of music. It’s a big part of our lives, of a lot of people’s lives, and I think we all missed it greatly this past year.”

Ann Tucker, KSO president, said that even though the orchestra has not quite performed all together yet, the smaller-sectioned concerts “bring back a little bit of normalcy.”

“Our musicians have been rehearsing on their own and via Zoom, and it’s just different when they’re together in person, performing on stage,” she said.

David Lehman, who has played the oboe in the group for more than 20 years, said performing during a concert is an experience “like nothing else.”

“Although we’re not playing together as a full symphony, we’re able to play different literature in smaller groups we might not normally play all together,” he said. “For many of us, playing music is like breathing. We have to do it. I think we’re all just excited to be playing music together again.”

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.