Concertgoers are looking at an uncertain 2022. The state of classical music this season is nowhere near the complete absence of live performances that marked the start of the pandemic. But a handful of recent cancellations in the Los Angeles area, along with concerns over the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, suggest audiences might have to get used to a new normal of refunds and reschedulings.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale was the first major group to announce a change. The ensemble went ahead with its Dec. 19 Messiah performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall but canceled its follow-up the next night, the annual Messiah singalong. The Master Chorale made the decision well in advance, citing guidance received from the L.A. County Department of Public Health, and scheduled a replacement program for Dec. 20, “Carols on the Plaza,” similarly participatory but outdoors.
Another holiday tradition won’t be quite the same this year. The 62nd Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, presented by The Music Center at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, has jettisoned the live audience it planned on having in 2021, out of “an abundance of caution given the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases.” The performance itself is still set to go on and will stream online.
Looking ahead to 2022, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County has dropped two engagements, concerts by the Russian National Orchestra (Feb. 25) and the Basel Chamber Orchestra (March 4). Both groups were slated for U.S. tours that increased international travel restrictions have forced them to give up. The Philharmonic Society is having the San Diego Symphony play that February date at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall instead — a local solution to the problem of planning a season of guest artists amid the pandemic.
This new round of cancellations differs in a couple significant ways from the first closures brought about by the coronavirus, beginning in March 2020. Organizations are canceling individual performances, rather than months of their schedules at a time. And they aren’t abandoning performances entirely, improvising compromises or replacements (though allowing ticketholders the option of a refund as well).
Vaccine and masking requirements at both the state and local level have softened the moratorium on large events that marked the beginning of the pandemic. As of Dec. 15, California is requiring masking for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public settings, through at least Jan. 15, 2022. There are also slight changes to the timeline for a negative Covid test, in lieu of proof of vaccination, for entry to a large event (now, within 48 hours for a PCR test or 24 for an antigen test).