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Thursday, September 24 Living

Greater Bridgeport Symphony performs first live concert since quarantine

When the Greater Bridgeport Symphony takes the stage for its first live concert of 2020, it will perform the music of George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and George M. Cohan.

“Roots of Broadway,” an outdoor show featuring symphonic Broadway masterpieces, will be presented at Indian Ledge Park in Trumbull, Saturday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. Social distancing will be observed; the concert was previously set for April, but the pandemic put everyone’s play list on pause.

“This concert is a long time in the making,” says guest conductor Chelsea Tipton II. “We will explore the connection between Broadway and classical music. We have some fantastic singers joining us.”

Bridgeport singer Maureen Hamill, along with Broadway veterans Raissa Katona Bennett and Gary Harger, will sing “Send in the Clowns,” “Strike Up the Band” and more. Tipton II — conductor of the Symphony of Southwest Texas and pops conductor for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra — says the concert will show how classical music has influenced Broadway.

Speaking by phone, Tipton ( chelseatipton.com ) said he’s looking forward to creating music for a live audience. “Music has survived pandemics, world wars and tragedies before,” he said. “That goes to its power. It can lift people up and bring them together in times of need, and we need music more than ever right now.”

Mark Halstead, executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony, says he can fit 38 musicians onstage with proper distancing. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement on the part of our two families — our family of musicians and our audience family. The audience has been waiting for this music since last December; that’s the last time they saw us.”

GBS is anxious to play and exercise its talents and abilities, he said, in a phone chat. “We have been getting thank yous — ‘Thank you for doing this,’ ‘This is a great idea.’ — People need to get back something normal in their lives. Even though we will be wearing masks, it provides a little bit of life (as it was) before COVID-19.”

Halstead said organizers began talking to officials in Trumbull back in April, when everything was still shut down.

“Trumbull has been aces for us,” he said. “There were people who knew this would be a need. They shepherded it along... Then Trumbull said we could have the park! They were as happy to do it as we were.”

A dozen volunteers are working behind the scenes to put all the pieces together. “It’s so much more complicated than a regular concert, between the spacing in the audience and the spacing on the stage,” he said.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the concert in these unprecedented times is the gathering together of an entire orchestra. “All the musicians and volunteers will be tested for COVID-19,” Halstead said. “We are buying masks and hand sanitizer and stockpiling all these things we never would normally think about; we’re spending a good deal more on things that are nonmusical but all necessary to make the music.”

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So much popular music from Broadway has come from classical music, he added. “The great crossover composers ... could write serious music and pop music and everything in-between. Some of the music that will be played will show that breath of talent.”

Everyone in attendance is required to wear a mask. Hand sanitizing stations will be available, and groups (audience members) will be seated with appropriate social distancing on chairs provided by GBS. There’s no intermission.

Limited $30 general-admission tickets are available through advance registration (before 6 p.m. Sept. 3) by emailing mark@gbs.org by calling 203-576-0263, or via gbs.org.

lkoonz@newstimes.com; Twitter @LindaTKoonz

Linda Tuccio-Koonz|Reporter

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