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Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Pivot Online Brings Accessibility

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, we continue our month-long look at how the coronavirus pandemic has upended the arts world in ways that might even outlast the pandemic. Today, we're going to hear about the changes the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has had to make. It ended its last season abruptly when the pandemic hit in the spring. Then in September, it kicked off its very first online concert season.

RAINER EUDEIKIS: We're performing concerts, but in a very different arrangement, a different formation.

MARTIN: That's Rainer Eudeikis, the orchestra's principal cellist. He says that in order to make social distancing possible onstage, the number of musicians involved in performances has had to be cut by almost two-thirds.

EUDEIKIS: Normally, a full-sized orchestra performance would involve anywhere from 80 to a hundred players onstage. So for the most part, we've had to adapt the repertoire. We're playing pieces that just don't require as many players compared to what was originally planned for this season.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE)

MARTIN: Another change that a casual listener might not notice is how the musicians play as a group when they are farther apart onstage.

EUDEIKIS: Usually, you would have two players on one music stand, sharing a stand. And you're very close together. And the way we communicate with each other is, there's a listening component, there's a visual component. There's sort of a - I call it, like, a Spidey sense component where we just sort of sense what everyone is doing, and that's how we play together. So when you spread everyone out and you remove that contact, it does take a lot of flexibility and willingness to adapt to still make it work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE)

MARTIN: While all of these changes seemed daunting in September, Eudeikis says they've been worth it to keep the symphony going during these tough times.

EUDEIKIS: We're glad to make these adaptations. And even though it's been tough, I do have a lot of optimism for when things return to normal and people realize how hungry they've been for the music that we make. And we at the symphony are definitely going to come out stronger from this from a performance perspective.

MARTIN: And he's hoping that at least some of the changes they've made stick around after the pandemic.

EUDEIKIS: Even though we aren't able to reach our local audience, our live audience, in necessarily the same way, we are still able to reach them virtually. And also, there are people who would normally not be able to come to an Atlanta Symphony concert, for example, who can just subscribe online and sign in and watch us from anywhere in the world. And I think that's an important aspect to what the organization is doing that will continue even after things supposedly go back to normal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF LEROY ANDERSON'S "SLEIGH RIDE")

MARTIN: That is Rainer Eudeikis, principal cellist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. You can watch him and the rest of the orchestra play - virtually, of course - in their upcoming holiday concert series from December 17 to the 21.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF LEROY ANDERSON'S "SLEIGH RIDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.