Mankato Symphony Orchestra prepares for first concert since start of pandemic

16 months have passed since members of Mankato Symphony Orchestra have performed as one. This weekend, they come together at Saints Peter and Paul Church in downtown Mankato, a long-anticipated return to live performances.

Mankato Symphony Orchestra prepares for first concert since start of pandemic

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — At a Monday night rehearsal in Saints Peter and Paul Church, musicians are masked and each have their own music stand, six feet apart.

These details will remind Sunday’s scaled-down, socially-distanced audience of a year we couldn’t share the magic of music together, when they watch from the pews the Mankato Symphony Orchestra’s first live concert in 16 months.

“Expect to listen to some beautiful classics,” MSO executive director Bethel Balge said. “We have great soloists, and then we have our conductor, of course, our guest conductor Silver Ainomae.”

A professional cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra, Silver Ainomae returns to Mankato for the already sold-out show.

“As a performer, it’s only been a couple of times since last March that I’ve been in front of an audience,” Ainomae said. “And obviously we’ve missed that. We’ve missed the audience reaction.”

Ainomae says live-streamed concerts and other virtual performances are a silver lining derived from the pandemic, but a live concert just can’t be replicated.

“When you’re in a hall, you can choose where you focus. You can kind of choose and connect what you’re hearing and just focus on a section or focus on certain musicians. When it’s being broadcasted to you, those decisions are kind of already made,” Ainomae said. “So for a lot of people, I imagine, it’s just that personal connection.”

Balge says performers are on the edge of their seats, eager to once again play together, and in the company of their community.

“The energy that you get and feed on from an audience is something that we don’t have,” Balge said. “And that’s probably the greatest joy about coming together for this concert on the 25th is to renew that energy and to remember what that was like.”

MSO’s concert at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 25 is sold out. The performance will be professionally recorded and available later on the orchestra’s website.

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