MADISON – In a time when orchestras have fallen silent, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) will host two special “Concerts on the Square” on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 at Breese Stevens Field, from where they’ll broadcast the performance free – all in an effort keep live music alive in Madison.

Following county health and safety guidelines, the WCO will host a small group of patrons (maximum 25 people) at Breese, but the primary focus is on simulcasting the concert through multiple channels and venues to create a “concert-like” experience in a time when large groups are prohibited.

“Since the pandemic hit we’ve looked for new, creative ways to share the WCO’s music and to live up to our mission to provide world-class orchestral performances for as many Wisconsinites as possible,” said Joe Loehnis, WCO’s CEO. “After looking at every possible option, we determined this was the best way to have our musicians play live for the community. We are thrilled to partner with WORT 89.9 FM and the Madison Mallards to accomplish this vision.”

The two concerts will feature the orchestra live at Breese Stevens. From there, WORT 89.9 FM will air the concerts including a pre-concert show from 5-6 p.m., while the WCO will live stream each performance in real time through its website, wcoconcerts.org.

Additionally, each performance will be streamed live for drive-in concerts at the Madison Mallards Duck Pond on the city’s north side. Visit the Madison Mallards website to buy tickets. Each concert has a 115-car capacity.

“We want this to be a celebration in resilience, with the WCO providing a couple hours of live music during these times of pandemic featuring our talented musicians,” said Maestro Andrew Sewell.

The concerts

The two concerts will feature collaborations with national artists who have performed previously with The WCO. From The Beatles and Prince to Duke Ellington and Tchaikovsky, the two shows are lively and inspirational.

Each concert starts at 6 p.m. at Breese Stevens Field.

Come Together

  • Date: Aug. 25
  • About: The WCO will perform with Jeans ‘n Classics, playing 18 hits from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, featuring The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Who, Prince and more.
  • More information: https://wcoconcerts.org/events/cos-come-together

For the Greater Groove

Health and safety

The WCO leaders worked with county health officials, musicians and experts in the orchestra field to develop a safety plan that goes above and beyond current outdoor gathering guidelines in Dane County, Loehnis said.

Along with only allowing 25 attendees in person, musicians will be socially distanced six to 12 feet, depending on instrument. Each will have personal protective equipment and plexiglass shields to mitigate the spread of aerosols. All rehearsals will be held outside and health and temperature screenings will be conducted prior to each concert.

To view the WCO’s full health and safety plan, click here.

“This is priority No. 1 and we have taken every step to keep patrons and our musicians safe,” Loehnis said.

Keeping the concerts going

The WCO as a nonprofit is able to have two live concerts because of the unwavering support of community sponsors, most of whom continued their generous commitment to the organization this summer. This commitment has allowed the WCO to continue its mission of enriching the lives of community members through music. For that reason, the 25 seats at Breese Stevens will be reserved for some of those folks.

“It’s a small way to say ‘thank you for sticking with us’,” Loehnis said.

Anyone wanting to support the WCO can do so by joining its Friends of the WCO program. For a small donation, members get exclusive perks, including discounted tickets, preferred seating and other benefits. Since launching this spring, the Friends of the WCO has helped the WCO support its musicians in several ways. To learn more, visit Friends of the WCO online.

To keep up-to-date with performance schedules, community members can sign up for email updates on the WCO website or follow the orchestra on Facebook and Instagram. To donate, visit wcoconcerts.org/donate.