WINNIPEG -- Four months after being forced to close down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) is preparing to bring the band back together.

The organization announced its 2020-21 season Tuesday morning, with changes taking physical distancing and public health guidelines into effect, and placing an emphasis on Manitoba musicians. The first shows of the season take place on October 2 and 3.

Indoor stage performances are currently prohibited under public health orders, but the WSO will be meeting with the province in the next month to ask for the rules to be relaxed.

“On taking stock of where we are, our full musician contingent is here in Manitoba, we have our conductors in Manitoba, we have a great audience, and we actually have a very favourable situation when it comes to actual instances of the virus in our community,” said Trudy Schroeder, executive director of the WSO. “We are one of the communities that have been very fortunate.”

Schroeder notes orchestras in other cities across North America have cancelled their fall seasons, and are not likely to hold concerts until 2021. She said the WSO season will be adapted, with some shows that were originally announced earlier this year being cancelled or rescheduled until next year.

“We are going to present a season, we are going to adjust the season so that it’s safe for our audience members and our orchestra members, and we’re going to be eminently adaptable,” said Schroeder


The WSO normally has 67 musicians as members, but when the shows resume, the orchestra will feature 40 musicians on stage at the Centennial Concert Hall to meet physical distancing requirements. Schroeder said there will also be plastic barriers in front of some instrument sections to help reduce the possibility of infection.

Another change, Schroeder noted, is the lack of guest musicians performing with the orchestra this season, due to the difficulty involved in bringing artists in from other countries and regions. Most of the guest performers will be rescheduled for the 2021-22 season.

“This year, we are going to feature our orchestra, we are going to keep it in Manitoba, with people who are living and working in Manitoba,” she said. “The musicians in the orchestra are absolutely first-rate; the audience members will love to see them in solo roles with the orchestra.”

To start the season, the concert hall, which can seat 2,400, will only allow 420 people in the audience at first to ensure physical distancing. Schroeder added concerts will also be shorter, running approximately 90 minutes without an intermission. Typically, the concerts are approximately two-and-a-half-hours, with a 20-minute intermission.

Schroeder said the WSO is limiting places the audience can mingle and gather at the concerts, and will have hand sanitizer in place in the building.

“I think people will be safe and delighted with what the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is able to provide,” she said.