BOSTON — With all live Boston Symphony and Boston Pops concerts canceled through May 1, a new digital series dubbed “BSONOW” is on the launching pad.
Following up on last summer’s Tanglewood Online Festival, the first batch of videos will lift off next month and in December, with more to come from January through April.
Members of the BSO gathered onstage at Boston’s Symphony Hall on Wednesday for a two-hour rehearsal. It’s the first time they’ve performed as a group since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out an East Asian tour last February, followed by the cancellation of all live concerts since then, including the entire Tanglewood season.
The expansion of the organization’s already robust online presence begins with a BSO series, “Music in Changing Times,” featuring new one-hour video performances by the orchestra, as well as additional videos by the Pops, and by orchestra musicians in chamber music recitals.
Each of the 15 new BSO videos will go online at noon, Nov. 19, 26, Dec. 3 and continuing on selected Thursdays through April 29, at www.bso.org/now. The performances can be viewed for 30 days after each release date, a BSO announcement stated.
Every BSO online video includes magazine-style segments with musicians, composers and conductors discussing the musical selections and themes.
A Holiday Pops video conducted by Keith Lockhart, newly recorded at Fenway Park and Symphony Hall, featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir in virtual performances, will be posted online Dec. 10.
“With more than 13 million people across the globe interacting with the orchestra’s digital content over the last six months, the BSO is now moving beyond an immediate response to the pandemic and enthusiastically embracing the online content model as one that will continue to thrive alongside the orchestra’s live performance offerings, once the orchestra is back performing post-pandemic,” said BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe, BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, and Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins in a joint prepared statement.
The group emphasized the importance of attending live performances once it’s safe to resume public concerts.
“As people so deeply committed to the transformational power of the live concert experience, we so look forward to being with our music community and taking in the experience of being inspired and transported by music, with its power to take us beyond our own personal troubles and the world’s many difficulties and remind us of the great gifts of our lives,” they stated.
The orchestra has lost $71 million in earned income, some of that offset by donations, according to orchestra officials. The BSO’s annual budget for the current fiscal year is less than $50 million, down from $107 million for the previous year.
The 92 full-time musicians took pay cuts averaging nearly 40 percent in the first year of a new three-year contract, earning a minimum of $120,000, down from the previous base salary of $162,000. The BSO has laid off 50 of its 180 administrative employees.
The complete BSONOW and Holiday Pops video series is available for donations of $100 or more by visiting www.bso.org/give. All donations by Dec. 31 will be doubled by the Gross Family Challenge, up to $1 million.
For the general public, there’s free 24-hour trial access to select BSO content, with details at www.bso.org/NOW.
The Holiday Pops program is available separately for $30 starting Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. by visiting www.bso.org/NOW or calling 888-266-1200, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a limited time, early Holiday Pops buyers will receive complimentary access to the first BSONOW program on Nov. 19, available at the time of their ticket purchase.
All online programming will be available at no charge to current Tanglewood, BSO and Pops donors of $100 or more, as well as to 2019-20 BSO subscribers, College Card holders, essential workers and corporate partners.
After the initial video releases, more BSONOW offerings will be available from January through April, including BSO programs led by Nelsons and guest conductors, a Pops concert conducted by Lockhart, and a BSO Youth Concert directed by Wilkins.
Community partnerships, educational initiatives, and special access programs for college students and essential workers will be featured, the BSO announcement stated.
Ahead of the BSONOW kickoff on Nov. 19, the first of seven free video podcasts are online immediately, resulting from a collaboration among Wilkins, BSO musicians, and Boston-based hip-hop/spoken word performers Moe Pope and Stl Gld. The videos are available at bso.org/stlgld.
The BSO’s recording schedule at Symphony Hall follows detailed health and safety policies, including frequent testing, daily screening, social distancing, universal masking, engineering controls and enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures, according to the announcement.
Resumption of live concerts with audiences depends on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state, the city of Boston and the BSO’s experts. “The timing of this process will not be known for at least several months,” the BSO leadership group stated.