Shock: Boston shuts hall into 2021

Shock: Boston shuts hall into 2021


norman lebrecht

May 11, 2020

New England Conservatory has decided to shut Jordan Hall to outside organizations for the entire 2020-2021 concert season, ‘due to the current COVID-19 situation’.

That leaves Boston Baroque without a season unless they can locate an alternative venue.

They seem pretty shocked.




  • Larry says:

    NEC is my alma mater and I love the school dearly but I’m not understanding this at all. Are they keeping outside organizations away because they think they might be more likely to have the virus compared to NEC students and faculty? And why cancel now for the entire 20-21 season? Why not take it a few months at a time, to see how things are? I’m confused.

    • James says:

      It could be related to insurance but it does seem extremely rash to kill off the spring of 2021 already.

    • Amos says:

      I would venture to guess that the reason is that NEC can control exactly how Jordan Hall is used by its students and faculty but not outside organizations like Boston Baroque and the Boston Philharmonic. I’m not sure what their legal responsibility is but why risk the possibility of an outbreak. As pointed out before until a vaccine is successfully developed concert life can not continue.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Baldly stating that the return concert life requires a vaccine does not make it true. We will not wait that long since it will very likely take several years.

    • RJ says:

      If they are like other schools, they are thinking that they will need the larger space in order to teach classes and small ensembles with appropriate social distancing and ventilation. Most classrooms will not cut it for instruction of “larger” (more than 15!) class sizes. So a hall that was previously used by outside performing orgs for X amount of time will now be in nearly continuous use for students/faculty alone, just to try to keep the NEC core constituents somewhat safe while meeting in person.

    • nl says:

      I agree. This seems like a premature move by NEC (I’m also an alum), at a time when most ensembles and presenters in the US are approaching this in shorter increments. Aside from Boston Baroque, there are about a dozen other organizations that regularly perform in Jordan Hall. This will force all of them to make decisions about whether to reschedule or outright cancel their own seasons much sooner than they had probably wanted to.

  • Wise. Sorry it’s needful, but people have to prioritize health and care for others over heroics. Thanks, NEC, for putting on the “big-people-pants” and making this difficult, but ultimately loving, decision. Let’s not undo all the work the quarantine has done, and take good care of our healthcare workers. They’re the ones who are paying the greatest cost.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Celebrity Series of Boston is also very busy scrambling to find alternative venues.

    Whether all this will really matter is another question: who knows where things will stand with pandemic…

  • Myrsini Papoutsis says:

    Well maybe not things can change in a year for the better instead of the worse and the opportunity might present itsf not to close. You just need to pivot and reboot new thinking into kerping the hall open.

  • Arthur says:

    The only thing “shocking” here is that people are still “shocked”. If anything, this closure is much more honest than the other ones that mention early fall or like the Boston Symphony, go to great lengths to even announce a (ridiculous non-)season as though doing so will help it to be business as usual. Even if most of society opens back up, no one is going to rush into the concert hall for a good long time, if ever. Institutions that have to abide not only by state law but by politically correct modes of operating, which is a given in all the arts, will be further hamstrung, and the majority of their audience is older and vulnerable. This is a wise move, and if it exposes some in classical music as being in denial, then all the better.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      There are many people who would be prepared to go to a concert in the fall. Like anything there are a minority who want to hid in their basement for the next decade while we hope for a vaccine; there are a bunch of people who are completely ignoring any risk to themselves or anyone else (or choosing to believe bizarre stories that it is a hoax or government plot); and there are a range of views in between.

      Personally, I think that the numbers are likely to be much better in the Autumn (we might well be approaching herd immunity in the worst hit areas, but it is difficult to be sure). I understand that we are going to have to live with the virus for quite some time, and that means we will sooner-or-later return to concert life without a vaccine. And the Autumn is likely to be when we are doing this.

  • Brian says:

    With all of the vaccine research that’s going on, I wonder if NEC has thought through the possibility that a vaccine could hit the market by year’s end. I know, a bit “if,” but it could happen.

    • Amos says:

      The likelihood that a vaccine will be proven safe and effective by year’s end is low. The probability that production will be sufficient for large scale vaccination is nil.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Unless the FDA is willing to approve a vaccine that has not been sufficiently tested and thus lacks the certainty that it’s both safe and effective, there is a greater chance that Beethoven will be conducting his own cycle with the BSO than the chance a safe and effective vaccine will hit the market by year’s end.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      We are unlikely to have a vaccine for several years. Almost certainly we will have herd immunity before a vaccine.

      Note: herd immunity entails many people dying. It isn’t a pleasant outcome, but rather a likely outcome.

  • Joel A Stein says:

    Most medical experts have stated that a vaccine will take 12-18 months to develop and test. We may be looking at Fall 2021.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      No, they have stated “AT LEAST 12-18 months”. It won’t happen any quicker, and will almost certainly take much longer. There is no promise that in 18 months we will have a vaccine.

  • Bruce says:

    Probably less disruptive to cancel everything now and then open it up later (if warranted), than the other way around. At least this way Boston Baroque et al. have time to look for other venues instead of having their venue shut down 2 weeks before a concert. (— which could still happen…)

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    I understand completely that any venue might not want a large ensemble and large audience for the foreseeable future. However, what about a solo piano recital or something with three or four performers? There’s a big difference between a symphony orchestra and chorus and a string quartet. Audience size and distancing will have to be considered too, of course. It seems not at all surprising but perhaps more extreme than needed at this point.

  • Fred says:

    As another NEC alum on this thread, I’m very proud of the school for being realistic here. I’m still trying to figure out how ANY school can safely open before we have a vaccine–let alone a concert hall for hundreds or thousands of people.

  • Sylvia Kahan says:

    This is an excerpt of the statement on Boston Baroque’s website: “The safety of our audiences and audiences will always be our top priority at Boston Baroque, and NEC’s decision, which we know was a difficult one, has our full support. . . . We have been anticipating this possibility and, now that it is here, we are pleased to be able to tell you that we are exploring a number of scenarios for the upcoming season.” Norman, how does this announcement reflect your allegation that “they seem “pretty shocked”? It sounds pragmatic and compassionate to me. What is pretty shocking, at least to me, is your allegation, which bears no connection to the actual text. Things aren’t bad enough without your site making gratuitous statements meant to grab attention?

  • Wilson says:

    With all the unknowns surrounding this pandemic, no one can say for sure that concerts are unsafe and/or impossible by June of 2021, which is 13 months from now! To shut down the venue for the entire year, which is home to so many treasured Boston arts organizations, forcing some of them to cancel their entire season/festival – with no notice and official statement we can find on NEC’s website, is beyond irresponsible. It’s amazing how they think they can accept the big tuition from their students, while at the same time decimating the industry that their students will graduate into! So much for an educator!

  • Anon. says:

    NEC has always has had a history of puerile, cowardly, greedy and bureacratic ass-covering that throws the music community under the bus at the first sign of trouble.

    -From an alum

  • Bill Ecker says:

    It all comes down to dollars and cents and the increase in liability insurance to operate in the covid environment. It will shutter many theaters, stadiums, concert halls, arenas etc. around the U.S. for the foreseeable future. It’s horrible, but it is a reality.

  • Roger says:

    ’21 is about when Donny is going to be in prison so it makes sense.
    They can have a special performance of “Hail to the Chief” on the first concert.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Fidelio. Pizzarro will be wearing an orange wig.

    • Edgar says:

      “Hail to the Thief” – that was already sung on Bush II’s inauguration day. so it’s well established:-) Yet: Drumpf will do everything to obfuscate and to undermine Election Day. he will not accept losing. Maybe it will come to Civil War, Part Two? With the current “ein Reich, ein Führer”-GOP much more worse things are possible.

  • MTowle. mother of 4 musicians says:

    Stellar efforts into saving our future of tge greatest of music by the younger generations.

  • Cash morgan says:

    Our governor has scared people into a ridiculous state of mind and should be impeached from his office along with the mayor, Mighty Mouse Marty Walsh

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It seems until there is a vaccine life will never get back to normal. This crisis have shaken my faith in modern civilisation. I am no longer so certain that we can survive through global climate change, nor through other calamities such as being hit by an asteroid , etc. I now feel that human civilisation is rather fragile and one can even envisage the extinction of the species given certain circumstances.

  • Dennis says:

    Will some sane adult please stop the madness? The whole world is succumbing to mass psychosis and the notion that nothing can ever go on again until Bill Gates & Co. present a magic vaccine. Over something that is statistically has an IFR in the same range as ordinary flu. Insanity. I truly wish I had been born 40-50 years earlier, so I would have shuffled off this mortal coil by now.

    • Edgar says:

      Act like and adult, for starters. We have no use for selfish and childish tantrums here. Get a grip and grow up.

    • Amos says:

      Rather than spouting nonsense why not try reading for an hour and learn about the virus. Your statements are crap.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It is likely about 2-3 times more dangerous than the flu. And certainly we had to do something to stop the health system being overwhelmed (which is was in Italy and New York).

  • Cefranck says:

    Maybe this will give time to fix the organ they long since abandoned in Jordan Hall.

  • Edgar says:

    Who knows, at some point later in time we will perhaps judge NEC’s decision as prescient. Boston Baroque could, for example, perform at Emmanuel Church. It is a space large enough. If only it weren’t for those pews… As for Jordan Hall, venerable though it is for many, I have left it too often with a hurting back due to the slanted/raked balcony and orchestra side seats in the auditorium. Now would be the time to correct that and install level seating throughout, so that not only those who pay the most for a seat in the orchestra middle, thereby enjoying one of the few level positions in the hall, can experience fine music making on all levels.