The Southwest Washington Wind Symphony has had a tougher time coming back from the coronavirus pandemic than most performing groups. It’s a 50-piece ensemble composed almost entirely of lung-powered horns and woodwinds with no strings.
“Wind symphonies and concert bands, like choirs, we just blow aerosols around,” said group president Pete Boule. “We had to get to a place where we were comfortable with that. I didn’t want a concert to become a superspreader event.”
The national coronavirus pandemic emergency is set to expire on May 11. But there are still more than 400 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. every week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So the audience at this Sunday’s free concert by the Southwest Washington Wind Symphony will still be asked to wear face masks, Boule said.
“We hope we can loosen up in the future, but for now we are still requiring that,” he said. “Over half our audience is retirement age or above and they’ll be coming in buses. There’ll also be a lot of school kids. We have this combined, diverse audience. We’re trying to keep everybody safe.”
IF YOU GO
What: Southwest Washington Wind Symphony’s “Wind Songs”
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Union High School, 6201 N.W. Friberg-Strunk St., Camas
The group’s first return to performance, an informal concert in spring 2022, brought back some of the magic, Boule said.
“That feeling of making something of beauty after a couple of years away — it was really wonderful,” he said.
A fall 2022 concert was an even bigger success, except for the few musicians who dropped out because of new vaccine and booster requirements to participate.
“This has been the struggle,” Boule said. “A small percentage had issues with that. On the other hand, many more musicians are back because of that requirement.”
Many players in the 50-piece Wind Symphony are older folks with the kinds of medical conditions that could turn a case of COVID-19 into something serious, according to Colleen Chun, a member of the group who’s also a retired epidemiologist. She advised Boule and the symphony board on safety.
And about 80 percent of the group’s members are music educators who work regularly with kids in classrooms, Boule said. He didn’t want to expose them to any more disease risk, he said. That’s why he stuck with the vaccine and booster requirements.
Focus on guns
Boule said the program for this Sunday’s concert will be light and breezy, except for a piece by contemporary American composer Julie Giroux called “My Soul to Keep,” which is dedicated to everyone touched by gun violence. Guest vocalist mezzo-soprano Sarah Maines of Portland will sing “My Soul to Keep” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” the George Gershwin classic.
The program also includes “Jupiter” from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, “The Seal Lullaby” by Eric Whitacre and more. Patrick Murphy is the conductor.