Minnesota Orchestra says it’s down to 25 players

Minnesota Orchestra says it’s down to 25 players


norman lebrecht

September 08, 2020

The orchestra has rolled out its streamed season from now to the end of the year – no audience and only 25 players on stage.

The concerts will feature ensembles of up to 25 Orchestra musicians performing programs created for at-home viewing instead of an in-person audience. Each performance will offer approximately 60 minutes of music and be programmed with appropriate health and safety measures in place for the musicians.

President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns says: ‘Our goal, as we move concerts indoors for the fall, is to enable audiences to easily access the Orchestra on the platform of their choice—online, on TV or on the radio. In the next phase, we will roll out best practices for inviting limited audiences back into Orchestra Hall.’


Surely she could manage more than 25 players?




  • Orchspork says:

    Norman, American orchestras are making decisions about player counts based on many factors, including local regulations and case rates, discussions with medical advisors, studies in similar spaces, HVAC air turnover rates, testing capabilities, accuracy, and availability, and in at least some instances (hopefully all) the comfort levels of the players (as some live with or take care of at-risk loved ones). Additionally, I would assume strategies are in place to ensure that in case someone does get sick, the whole orchestra doesn’t get knocked out, so that ensembles of different types and sizes can be safely and strategically rotated.

    Different decision making processes are in place across the world around returning to concerts, and I respect and admire groups that are able to include more players – but the US has had such a poor response to the pandemic (189k deaths and counting) that a measured and collaborative approach to ensure safety for musicians, staff, and the community at large feels warranted in large American urban areas. Performing arts organizations in the US are struggling enough to survive as it is and could use any support and enthusiasm that anyone on any platform, including you, can muster as they navigate this ever-shifting and nightmarish landscape.

  • Rena Kraut says:

    Factually incorrect, misleading, and vaguely sexist. Thanks Norman for the excellent “journalism”.

  • Fiorini1908 says:

    Michelle Miller Burns deserves much credit for thoughtfully managing close to 90 players, plus staff, during the pandemic, distinguishing MN Orchestra as one of a very few to continue health insurance, paychecks, and both live(outdoor) and digital concerts.
    The number 25 refers to the maximum players on stage at safe distance in the near future’s concerts. All players may be rotated in as programming requires.

  • David P Assemany says:

    This headline is ridiculous. The MOA is not down to 25 players. They are following sensible guidelines and putting a maximum of 25 players at at time on the stage. Seriously Mr. Lebrecht, you need to stop with the click bait headlines.

  • Nils H says:

    This headline and post leaves out some very important context. First, the Minnesota Orchestra is not reducing its roster, rather the number of musicians on stage at any one time will not exceed 25 players “… guided by research conducted by the University of Minnesota on our stage to help us create an indoor performance environment based on best-practices safety protocols.” So the answer to the rhetorical question at the end of the post — based on the best science available — is no. See the U of M’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) for more about the department that has made the recommendations. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu.

  • I’m guessing she decided she’d prefer to manage 25 live players over 25 dead ones, Norman. I know it’s difficult to imagine having concern for other people, but I hear some people do.

    • Kyle says:

      I find it surprising that the readership has taken Norman to task for a very misleading – if entirely accurate – headline while overwhelmingly up-voting this hyperbole. You’d think the players were charging a machine gun rather than taking the stage from this comment. One player death would be tragic, suggesting 25 is baseless scaremongering unsupported by the terrible realities of this pandemic.

      Additionally, accusing Norman of a lack of concern is unfounded. Concern is defined by far more than supporting measures to avoid every infection possible, and it may well be that Norman has concern for the survival of the art form and jobs in addition to the health of players, which he in no way suggests should be compromised. In fact, I understand his question to be why it is that things cannot safely be done better. I would think it the responsibility of every organization out there to continually ask themselves if they can, in fact, do better. A little outside pressure might not go amiss in this pursuit.

  • Orchspork says:

    Also, this headline is misleading and Minnesota Orchestra has not cut any of its players. The rest of the post suggests the Norman understands this, but I’m not sure why it’s necessary to mislead with the headline.

  • Amy says:

    Consider the logistics of managing the safety of even a few players while on stage during a pandemic!
    Saying “surely she could manage more than 25 players” shows little understanding of what those very real risks entail.
    Minnesota, like other orchestras, is attempting to balance all interests – those of the players and the audience – while actually having a season. The physical and psychological toll of the coronavirus is huge.

  • Laura says:

    It is virtually certain that 25 players is all that appropriate Covid distancing allows on the stage. The headline is misleading.

  • Bruce says:

    This lady just can’t win with you, can she, Norman?

    We shouldn’t assume that the number of musicians is a choice she gets to make unilaterally. I know with my [much smaller] orchestra, the negotiations are ongoing and have to take into account factors like how many musicians are willing to perform onstage with others, and if so how many, and under what circumstances. That number will of course affect what repertoire can be performed.

    The number 25 was surely arrived at after some discussion at least, if not outright negotiation.

  • Minnesota says:

    I am sure it is 25 players at a time on stage because of current pandemic indoor distancing rules in Minnesota. Each state has its own rules.

  • Pro Mus says:

    Perhaps the musicians themselves set the 25 person limit, to protect themselves

  • Pro Mus says:

    A quick Google check found this in the StarTribune:
    Not all of the orchestra will be involved in each concert. Social distancing protocols mean that a maximum of 25 musicians can fit onto the Orchestra Hall stage, with additional health and safety measures also in operation.

  • alan says:

    Burns watches it all go up in flames? Poetic somehow, if reprehensible

  • norman lebrecht says:

    What’s misleading is not the Slipped Disc headline but a symphony orchestra presenting a season that is chamber orchestra-sized. The headline represents the new reality.

    • Minnesota says:

      You are reaching in this response. No one except blockheads would think this is meant to be a conventional “season.”

    • Bruce says:

      Your criticism is inaccurate, as one can see from reading your quote from the press release. “Ensembles of up to 25 musicians” is not deceptive; it is very straightforward.

      Your headline (“Minnesota Orchestra says it’s down to 25 players”) reads as if all but 25 musicians have quit or been laid off. I would call that deceptive, and so would you if someone else had written it.

      This sounds like the “No True Scotsman” fallacy — my original complaint was exposed as rubbish, so I am replacing it with a new one — known in the US as “moving the goalposts.”

      • lee4713 says:

        Or it reads that they didn’t want to play – which is ENTIRELY false. They have been chomping at the bit to get in front of live audiences; they did some Peavey Plaza concerts last month to do this. Real musicians wanna play!

    • lee4713 says:

      The word “Symphony” is not in their name. The word “orchestra” means “a large instrumental ensemble”. Please, no quibbling about “large”.

  • CA says:

    Dallas Symphony is opening with Beethoven 8 this week. A lot more than 25 players. MSO can do better….and they should.

    • Minnesota says:

      This is Minnesota, not Texas. The case rate and death rate from Covid are considerably higher in Texas than in Minnesota, so maybe they should be more careful in Dallas. The Texas governor denied there was a Covid problem until he was forced by the numbers to take it more seriously. The Minnesota governor has been more aggressive from the start.

    • SG says:

      Not a competition. Just getting onstage is difficult these days.

  • Larry Watkins says:

    I’m amazed there’s anyone left to listen. BLM savagery has gutted Minn/St. Paul and the stupid Minn Orchestra rebuked and rejected the Minn. PD as security for the hall. If I was one of the remaining listeners there’s no way I’d set foot downtown in the evening. Smart virtue-signaling!

    • Minnesota says:

      There are many police and sheriff’s departments in the greater Minneapolis-St Paul area to use for Orchestra Hall security besides the Minneapolis police department. Anyway, the concerts just announced are just for radio, TV & online. So stay safe in your bunker.

    • Westfan says:

      Huge eye roll.

    • lee4713 says:

      Sigh. Much of the “savagery” was caused by white outside agitators, militia, white supremacists.

  • Liam Allan-Dalgleish says:

    Just cut out te Cclef. No one uses it anyway.

  • lee4713 says:

    Your post made me donate to the MO.

  • Elizabeth Erickson says:

    What are you talking about? That is simply not true. That’s like saying the Boston Celtics are down to 5 players!