True Concord’s “Bubble” Garners Local and National Acclaim

True Concord artists after the final Spring concert

After COVID-19 hit the United States, we, like performing arts organizations across the country, had to reconsider our 2020-21 season. With the guidance of board member and physician Dr. Eve Shapiro, we followed the National Basketball Association’s lead and condensed the first half of our 2020-21 season into a Fall “Bubble” project, centered around quarantining artists, testing and strict safety precautions. In October and November 2020, singers and instrumentalists participated in a five-week residency in Tucson. They safely presented six programs in a combination of live, outdoor concerts and online video concerts during the pandemic, all of which were enthusiastically received by our audiences. Based on the success of the Fall project and in consultation with our board of directors’s task force, we determined we could do the same for the second half of the season and created another “Bubble” in Spring 2021.

Along the way, our ambitious “Bubble” projects garnered national attention in a National Endowment for the Arts report about performing arts organizations reopening amidst the pandemic, as well as an article in The Voice, a publication of Chorus America. Locally, Startup Tucson named us a winner of their IdeaFunding Resiliency Award in the Creative/Maker category. The prize recognizes the innovation and creativity that small businesses in Tucson have displayed amidst this year’s unprecedented challenges.

True Concord performs The Trailblazers at the Mountain Oyster Club

“This award goes to everyone in the True Concord family that has participated in and supported our music making in these challenging times: our dedicated board and staff, our committed patrons and incredibly generous donors, and of course our fearless and amazing artists,” said Founding Music Director Eric Holtan. “Congrats to all!”

Our Spring “Bubble” project began in early April 2020 with two live solo recitals by internationally acclaimed soprano Corinne Winters. Titled “A Woman’s Legacy,” the program featured art song and aria favorites by Debussy, Strauss and Tchaikovsky, among others. The recital, which was Winters’s first live performance in 13 months, was in partnership with the Tucson Desert Song Festival.

True Concord performs Music for the Royal She at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Meanwhile, 18 singers arrived in Tucson, individually quarantined for one week and tested multiple times. At various points, 21 instrumentalists also followed safety guidelines and participated in the “Bubble.” Over the course of their three-week residency, the artists performed 10 live outdoor concerts to limited audiences. We implemented various safety guidelines for live concert patrons, including timed arrivals, contactless ticket taking, socially distanced seating and requiring masks. Attendance was capped at anywhere from 50 to 250 depending on the venue size, and many of the performances sold out.

Hugh Russell in Carmina Burana

Additionally, the artists performed three online video concerts recorded in high-quality, multi-camera productions by the award-winning crew of Arizona PBS, making our concerts available to audiences at home here in Tucson, around the country, and abroad.

The Spring 2020 “Bubble” programs included:

  • The Trailblazers — Featuring female composers and poets, including Alice Parker, Jocelyn Hagen, Emily Dickinson, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Maya Angelou and more, as well as the winning piece of the 2020-21 Stephen Paulus Emerging Composers Competition
  • Music for the Royal She — Music written by Handel and Haydn celebrating some of history’s great female monarchs
  • The Goddess – Carmina Burana! Carl Orff’s authorized chamber version for two pianos and percussion, featuring baritone Hugh Russell

Participating artists were enthusiastic about the experience. “In April, I spent an amazing three weeks in Tucson, Arizona with True Concord Voices & Orchestra recording and performing three concert programs,” said soprano Christina Kay. “It was my first in-person gig in over a year and it was amazing making music in person again.”

True Concord audiences applaud after a Carmina Burana performance

Tenor Gene Stenger echoed this sentiment. “Once again, it was such a pleasure returning to beautiful Tucson to make music in person, and perform for live audiences as a part of True Concord Voices & Orchestra’s spring bubble project!” he said. “Congratulations to all who were involved, and a special thanks to the donors who made this bubble project possible!”

Looking ahead, we recently unveiled our 2021-22 season, “A New Day,” which expresses hope and renewal, transition from uncertainty to strength and our collective dreams for where and who we aspire to be. Highlights include Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem, two world premieres via commissions of Jocelyn Hagen and Jake Runestad, Metropolitan Opera star Susanna Phillips in solo recital and more.