Casey Bozell is concertmaster of the Newport Symphony Orchestra. She will be featured in a solo in the symphony’s first concert of the season.

The Newport Symphony Orchestra makes its “healing and triumphant” return to the Newport Performing Arts Center (PAC) this month, live and in concert at last.

Kept off the stage for a performance season by the COVID pandemic, the symphony is back with “Homecoming, Reflection and Celebration” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, in the PAC’s Alice Silverman Theatre.

The symphony will perform Schumann’s “When Jesus Wept” from the New England Triptych; George Walker’s Lyric for Strings; Mozart’s Rondo for Violin and Orchestra with a solo by concertmaster Casey Bozell, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 43 “Mercury.”

A pre-concert talk with conductor/music director Adam Flatt will be held at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

“It’s great to be able to do this chamber orchestra concert at the PAC,” said the symphony’s executive director, Don Nelson. “Everybody’s really excited to have a real concert. It will be wonderful and diverse — a nice variety of music that people will like.

“And it’s incredible to be back to regular symphony music,” he added.

“Preparing for a live concert is a relief, and is something that is also exciting and filling me with anticipation,” said Conductor Adam Flatt. “I’m animated by our responsibility — we have a mission and a charter and a job to provide a service, and we have been limited in providing that service by the pandemic. I’m glad we can serve our community again in the way we are supposed to.”

The symphony’s mission is “to enhance the quality of life in Oregon’s coastal communities with diverse, inspiring performances and engaging educational activities.”

“As musicians, we need to make music — it’s like breathing air,” Flatt said. “It’s life-giving for someone like me.”

Flatt said he conceived this first concert with the pandemic experience in mind. He created a program with a chamber orchestra in mind in the event the pandemic would limit capacity at the PAC, and about 20 musicians will be on stage. The November program, however, will feature the full symphony orchestra.

Flatt has been Newport Symphony Orchestra (NSO) conductor since 2007. He lives in Colorado and is also music director of the Colorado Ballet and the Tuscaloosa, Ala., Symphony Orchestra.

Concertmaster Casey Bozell is eagerly looking forward to being back at the PAC as well. “It’s been really sad not to do live performances this past year,” she said. “We all derive not only inspiration and friendship but musicality from each other, and that keeps us going as musicians,” she said. “We get to collaborate with really talented musicians. And performing before a live audience is my favorite thing to do!

“I play with several orchestras, and Newport is my favorite — both the orchestra and the community,” Bozell said. “I’m glad the vaccination rates are going up, and I’m thrilled that we could plan out a season for the orchestra.”

Last year, the pandemic kept the orchestra from its season. “We couldn’t perform as an orchestra, so we asked what could we do — and there were some very creative responses,” she recalled. The Newport Symphony held living room concerts and “intimate evening” concerts as well as free “NSO to Go” presentations — brief performances and comments on Zoom by one or more orchestra members.

“Our mission is to serve the community and region with inspiring performances of great music, and it’s an incredible blessing that technology allowed us to gather together this way,” Flatt said of those events. “We received tremendously positive feedback. It was a whole different medium to reach people through the internet and was a tremendous success. The living room series connected people with musicians at home, and I’m proud that our audience could get to know our musicians as people.”

“It was a great idea and a way of bringing performances directly into people’s homes,” Bozell added. “Those Zoom events were placeholders to get us where we need to be. But nothing holds a candle to getting together and performing.”

Now, with the new season about to open, Bozell is particularly excited about its first concert, as she is playing a solo in Mozart’s Rondo for violin and orchestra. “Adam picked out pieces to inspire hope and lightness,” she said. “This piece is new to me; it puts a smile on my face every time I practice it.”

As concertmaster, a role she has held since September 2018, Bozell is first chair violinist, and collaborates in leadership with Flatt. “It’s almost like a liaison position between the conductor and the sections,” she explained, adding she is also responsible for coordinating the string instruments’ bows, to ensure all of them go in the same direction at the same time.

“I kind of spearhead that effort,” she said, adding, “If the conductor for some reason couldn’t do something, the concertmaster would step in.”

Bozell is delighted to talk about classical music and performance. “It’s my career,” she said. “I think a lot of people think classical music is already ‘done,’ but it’s a living art form with new compositions all the time. We’re fighting the stereotype of the stuffy, tuxedo-clad musician. And art and music are so essential to a thriving economy.

“Right now it feels incredible,” she said of the new season. “The energy in the room from a live performance cannot be duplicated in any other setting. It’s a collaborative experience between the performers and the audience, and it’s where the magic happens. I’m so excited to make it happen.”

Being in Newport is part of the experience, she added. “I’ve never felt more welcome as an artist than when I’ve performed in Newport,” said Bozell, who is based in the Portland area and also plays with the Portland Opera Orchestra and the Oregon Ballet Theater. “I’m counting down the days.”

Single ticket prices range from $7.19 to $42. Online sales at close Friday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. After that time, tickets can be purchased at the door prior to the concert. Doors open one hour before the performance.

The following vaccination and mask requirements will be in effect for the concerts:

• Everyone in attendance must be fully vaccinated. Those unable to be fully vaccinated, including children under age 12, must have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the start time of the performance in order to enter the building. All patrons must provide this information as a condition of entry.

• In addition, per the city of Newport and state mandates, face masks are required of everyone while inside the building, regardless of vaccination status, except while “actively” eating or drinking in designated areas.

“We, in collaboration with the PAC and OCCA, are taking all health recommendations from authorities very seriously and are trying to do everything as safely as can be,” Flatt said, noting the musicians will be masked, with the wind instrument musicians masked when they are not playing. “Under these circumstances it’s a great joy to be making music again, and we look forward to sharing it with the community.”

Oregon Coast Council for the Arts Executive Director Jason Holland said the COVID regulations in place for the concerts are the policy of OCCA, and noted that OCCA staff and volunteers will check vaccination cards and face masks. OCCA manages the performing arts center for the city.

Holland said the directives are in line with what most arts venues are doing. “Nationally and locally, that’s what’s happening,” he said. “We’re following all the reasonable recommendations and all state and city mandates — we’re embracing resiliency to keep the music and the arts alive.”

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