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Sioux City Symphony Orchestra returning to live, in-person concerts
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Sioux City Symphony Orchestra returning to live, in-person concerts

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SIOUX CITY -- When new executive director Richard Steinbach called the 105th season of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra "a season like no other," he wasn't kidding.

"Symphonic Strings" -- a performance taking place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday -- will mark the symphony's first concert in front of a live audience at the Orpheum Theatre since the start of COVID-19.

Dr. Richard Steinbach, executive director of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, talks about returning to live performances in front of an audience and technological changes that will allow people to watch symphony performances on demand.

"After enduring the COVID-19 pandemic for so long, it is time to bring back music," Steinbach said. "It is important to the musicians and it is important to the community."

Certainly, Steinbach knows the importance music has on a community's well-being.

A concert pianist who has performed around the world, he also devoted more than 40 years as professor of music at Briar Cliff University.

After being hired to replace departing executive director Travis Morgan in the fall of 2020, Steinbach realized SCSO's 2020-2021 season would be a work in progress. 

For instance, the symphony began its season with "Christmas with the Symphony" -- a Dec. 20 performance that took place, sans live audience, at the Orpheum. 

The show -- which included a "Holiday Jam" with the multi-piece Hegg Brothers Band -- was telecast on KTIV-TV as well as on SCSO.LIVE, the symphony's new online streaming system.

Through matching grants from the Gilchrist Foundation and the Kind World Foundation, SCSO.LIVE also allows symphony fans to see concerts from the comfort of their homes, anytime and from anywhere around the world.

Not only that, SCSO.LIVE gives audiences a chance to view exclusive programming that will only be online.

"Beethoven 250" -- a three-part chamber series tracing the life and works of Ludwig van Beethoven -- as well as virtual programs on string quintets, wind quintets and the works of pioneering female composers, are part of SCSO.LIVE.

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So will behind-the-scenes footage of the symphony, Steinbach said.

"They were in the works before the pandemic," he explained. "COVID-19 just made this move more necessary." 

Ever since the symphony was founded, it was designed to bring musical excellence to many diverse communities in relevant and accessible ways.

That means bringing educational programming to students throughout Siouxland and around the country.

It has also been a challenging time, though Steinbach is pleased with SCSO's slate of in-person concerts, that will begin with Saturday's "Symphonic Strings."

A show dedicated to the symphony's string section, the program will feature music by composers like Edvard Grieg, Howard Hanson, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Percy Grainger. Also slated is a touching musical memorial on the Orpheum's Mighty Wurlitzer Organ by Carrie Groenewold, associate professor of church music and organ at Dordt University. 

The concert season will continue with "Simple Gifts" (April 24) and end with "Glorious Brass" (June 12).

According to Steinbach, a soloist and collaborative artist who has performed in concert around the United States and as far away as China, nothing can match the experience of seeing a symphony orchestra in a live setting.

"While SCSO.LIVE provides our audiences with more ways of seeing the symphony in action, it is much enjoyable in a live setting," he noted.

Due to social distancing at all Orpheum shows, tickets for "Symphony Strings" will be limited only to current SCSO season subscribers.

In additions, face masks are required for the audience. On the plus side, complimentary SCSO designer face masks (one per subscriber) will allow fans to make a fashion statement.

Despite the restrictions, Stenbach is convinced audiences will come back to experience the symphony.

"Our first show will be so special," he said. "We can't wait to be back."

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