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Friday, July 10, 2020

KSO Leader Addresses Concerns About Planned Concert in Tower Park

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra performed during Fort Thomas sesquicentennial Fourth of July event. (photo by Chris Stegner)

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra (KSO) plans a series of performances at the Amphitheater in Tower Park this summer. The first one will be held this Saturday, July 11, with subsequent performances planned in August and September. This is a departure from their longtime performance space in Covington’s Devou Park, where they had played for the past 25 years.

Located at 2000 Memorial Pkwy, Fort Thomas. 

While many in the community are excited to have KSO perform in Fort Thomas, some have expressed concerns over having a large gathering during the current COVID-19 crisis. The concerns illustrate the uncertainty of the current situation in all communities across the country.

How best to maintain the health and safety of the community, while, at the same time offering a sense of that community and a feeling of togetherness and support during this time of crisis?

"It’s a strange time, no one alive has ever lived through something like this time,” says KSO Music and Executive Director James (J.R.) Cassidy. "This is the nature of the unknown when you are living through it."

He acknowledged that the decision was not easy, but when the "Healthy at Work" guidelines from the state became available, he looked at them and felt he could indeed “check all the boxes” and provide a safe experience for those who wanted to attend.

Those in the entertainment field, not just musicians and performers, but also technicians who work on lighting, sound and projection, have been out of work since the start of the crisis, he noted.

"Summer is really the only window we have to put people to work" in the industry, he said.

On the other hand, he said he understood the concerns and wanted to provide access to the event for those who did not want to risk attending. This is why, he said, seniors and those with health concerns are invited to attend rehearsals where it will be easier to social distance, and the performance will be streamed live on Facebook for all to enjoy.

"We are taking all precautions. We do not want our musicians or our audience to be compromised,” he said.

RELATED: Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Leaves Devou Park for Fort Thomas, First Performance July 11

Circus Mojo will perform with the orchestra, along with the Swingin' Cirque Review. Circus Mojo mentors youth in circus arts.

What happened behind the scenes

Early in spring, when the virus pandemic was beginning to rage, the city of Covington informed the orchestra that officials did not feel comfortable moving forward with the Devou performances.

Cassidy made the decision that the show could go on with proper precautions in place. "I felt, if you can’t social distance in a park, you can’t social distance anywhere. I wanted to get our musicians back to work and bring some normalcy. The summer was not closed," he said.

The KSO had performed in Fort Thomas before, and Cassidy said he was impressed with the performance space. It is smaller than the Devou band shelter, but he said, he thought he could make it work.

"So I decided to call Eric [Haas] and Ron [Dill] and ask to get together and talk," he explained.

Fort Thomas Mayor Eric Haas said he knew Cassidy personally for many years and had seen KSO performances, so when the KSO director called, he was prepared to listen to what he had to say.

"When JR called, Ron and I had been discussing ways we could have activities for our citizens that could be done safely. We had to cancel the Fourth of July parade because there was no way to social distance. This concert series was something we could do safely."

He acknowledged that a successful event will require cooperation from the community. "If folks don't feel safe attending, then they can watch the live stream, and for those who attend, we are confident that people will comply with the safety guidelines."

Cassidy posted a number of safety guidelines on the KSO website. He suggested that families could bring blankets and space them six feet apart. They would need to wear masks and maintain social distance when moving about the park.

He said he feels with city’s involvement, audience members could keep safe. He noted Dill had already had distances chalked out, added several hand sanitizing stations and had thought of things like keeping the restroom doors propped open so people would not need to touch them.

He said he has been working with musicians and performers to ensure social distancing is happening on stage. He said he will do what he can and hammer home the need to keep a safe distance with reminders from the stage.

Yet, he added, "I don’t want to be a scold. I plan to play The Police song 'Don’t Stand So Close to Me' as a reminder. We’re trying to make this fun."

For more on Saturday’s concert and future concerts, see the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra website. To watch the performance online, see the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Facebook page.

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