Vermont Philharmonic makes post-pandemic comeback

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 4:21 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Live music proved problematic during the pandemic. Now, one local orchestra is finally making its way back on stage. The Vermont Philharmonic this weekend kicks off its first full season since the pandemic began. And the return is music to many of these musicians’ ears.

Music and excitement both filled the air at a recent rehearsal -- one of six before the Vermont Philharmonic returns for its 64th season this weekend.

“Practicing in a corner alone -- so to speak -- is not really the same as playing with a group,” said Louis Kosma, the orchestra’s music director since 1999.

For the past two years, the group hasn’t had a full season and Kosma says the lack of live music is something that would throw any musician off. “Most of these folks are amateurs that I’m working with. But even in a professional music career, you don’t stop your life for a year and a half or two years.” Returning from that, he says, is something that requires some readjustment. “It’s not just putting a finger down on a violin or playing the trumpet, it’s everything else that goes with it.”

Relegated to their homes, this is one of the very few times that the Vermont Philharmonic has been together, rehearsing, with a show to look forward to. Clarinet player Margaret Roddy says it’s been a sad few years. “It’s been really dismal. I spent a lot of time recording myself playing clarinet quartets and trios,” she said.

French horn player Cynthia Smith echoes that sentiment. “We’ve been trying to find ways to play here and there and doing a lot of outdoor playing,” she said.

The Philharmonic has played a handful of outdoor concerts over the past two years but most of the scheduled performances were canceled due to COVID spikes or weather. To have two solid dates to play to an audience inside an auditorium -- is hitting all the right notes for many of these players. “I work in the medical field. I’m a doctor and so it’s been an incredibly challenging couple of years and this is a major joyous occasion,” Smith said.

The musicians we spoke to say they’re feeling really good about their return to the big stage. All they need now is a crowd. “Just like music education in the public schools, arts are education of the soul, and that’s why they should come,” Kosma said.

The first performance in their Music by New World Composers series is on Saturday evening at the Highland Center for the Arts, with a Sunday afternoon show scheduled at the Barre Opera House.