STORRS – For the first time in nearly 16 months, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Connecticut opens to the public as it launches its second annual summer music series with the Parker Quartet of Boston .
Performances are scheduled for July 21, 25 and 29.
Midsummer Music was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rodney Rock, director of Jorgensen.
It premiered last year with the Dover Quartet of Philadelphia, which broadcast three performances live from Vale, Colorado.
Due to the ongoing security protocols implemented by UConn, the concert hall, which can normally accommodate over 2,000 people, will have a capacity of 250 people, Rock said, including people on stage, in the audience and. staff working on the event.
“For Midsummer Music, we chose 250 because chamber music here at Jorgensen typically attracts 400 and 500 people,” he said. “We don’t have house staff, we don’t have reception staff. Right now, the state of Connecticut reports 50 percent capacity, which for us would be around 1,100 seats, but it was not possible for us to meet the safety criteria set by the university, six feet between everyone.
Rock said he didn’t think the restrictions would stay this tight when the school year started in the fall, especially if he wanted to reserve larger numbers.
“If I’m forced to sell only 275 tickets to an event like the Boston Pops, then I can’t present the Boston Pops or Kristin Chenoweth,” he said. Chenoweth was scheduled to perform at the Jorgensen in March 2020, but had to cancel due to the pandemic.
Although the Midsummer Music Series is the first time the Jorgensen has opened to a live audience, it is not considered the center’s official opening date.
“I can’t give an official opening date,” said Rock. “Midsummer Music is different. It is a series of three concerts. We haven’t released or announced anything yet because we haven’t received a final yet, ‘OK you can bring back live performances.’ ”
He said he has a season set aside for the 2021-22 school year and hopes the pandemic does not heat up again and force another shutdown.
“We have around 25 events scheduled,” he said. “Couldn’t that happen? Yes, that’s a possibility, if the (COVID-19 delta) variant kicks in and the numbers go up with infection rates. The university can tighten things up rather than loosen them up.
Parker Quartet cellist Kee-Hyun Kim said he and the rest of the ensemble were looking forward to performing live at the Jorgensen.
“I don’t know what it will be like until we’re in space,” Kim said. “I imagine that we will adapt to this parameter. With the quartet or the little ensemble… we can really play with each other and be inspired and play with each other and flaunt that.
He said the quartet had not traveled much outside of New England so far since live performances resumed.
“In a way, we’re in a bit of a bubble,” he said. “Our attitudes and values are more in line with what the government recommends. I didn’t feel too much anxiety. The presenting organizations have been very meticulous in implementing their COVID protocols. We have all been vaccinated.
He said the group should do some soul-searching when it comes to visiting states with lower vaccination rates. “It’s not just safety, but the culture we play for,” he said. “We have to trust the organization and that they are looking for a safe experience.”
He said the three-day event will include three one-hour programs.
“It was an interesting opportunity,” he said. “We usually carry a lot of repertoire. We have all of these pieces to make a cohesive program.
Wednesday’s concert features “String Quartet No. 3” by Philip Glass, “Mishima” and String Quartet No. 3 by Robert Schumann in A major, Op. 41, n ° 3.
Kim said the compositions look stylistically different, but both compositions have the ability to repeat rhythmic patterns and be able to carry melodies around them.
The second performance will include excerpts from Antonin Dvorak’s “Cypresses”, B. 152 and from String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, op. 132.
Rock said he expects Sunday’s concert to sell particularly well because of its appeal to Jorgensen’s main audience.
The final concert includes selections from “Five Folksongs in Counterpoint” by Florence Price and from Bedrich Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From My Life”.
“Florence Price’s music is wonderful,” said Rock. “It’s just been heard more and more by audiences across the country. She was the first African-American songwriter in the United States to achieve any recognition and success.
“She’s an African American woman living at the turn of 20th century America,” Kim said. “She takes the spiritual and African-American anthems and orchestrates them through the prism of European classical music.”
With the Midsummer Music Series being a program created in response to the pandemic, Rock said he’s not sure the program will continue after the pandemic ends.
“We are moving lightly,” he said. “If there is a continued need and interest in summer programming here at Storrs, chances are we will continue with Midsummer Music. It can extend beyond chamber music. It’s just right now, during the pandemic, that there are so many different musical genres and ensembles that don’t work and don’t live in different parts of the world. “