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In an unsettling pandemic development, Fresno Master Chorale postpones first scheduled live concert

For a couple of months, I’ve been passing along encouraging news about the reopening of the arts in the greater Fresno area in the post-vaccination era. Theater, classical music and visual arts have all had success stories.

Today, however, I have an update that indicates a bit of a setback.

The Fresno Master Chorale tentatively planned to offer a Sept. 11 concert titled “In Memoriam” to an invited audience, which would have marked the first time the ensemble would have made choral music together live since the pandemic began.

That concert has been postponed because of recent COVID-19 developments, Hamre told me Tuesday.

When the concert was scheduled, music director Anna Hamre emphasized to her singers that she would continue to be advised by Dr. Neha Nanda, an epidemiologist at the USC School of Medicine Center for Emerging Pathogens. Hamre said she would adhere not only to all guidelines established by authorities but also the recommendations of health officials looking in particular at the dangers involved in group singing.

Of all the performing arts, choral music is likely the one that has to worry the most about spreading a virus. Essentially, a singing human is the perfect COVID-19 dissemination machine. With all those droplets spreading a much greater distance than you’d think possible, it is a high-risk activity.

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“Masking really helps, but it isn’t fool-proof,” Hamre says. “Our big concern is passing on the virus to children and grandchildren who cannot yet be vaccinated.”

In Dr. Nanda’s latest weekly webinar briefing, Hamre and the Master Chorale’s board didn’t receive good news.

“At this point,” Hamre told me, “given the high numbers currently found in Fresno County, the advisor says we need to add testing to our strategies (beyond monitoring vaccinations, masking, distancing, air flow, and screening). Weekly testing is simply beyond our capabilities, and we will be looking at alternatives for our first rehearsals (e.g., Zoom, outdoor gatherings).”

Dr. Nanda did say that she expects this surge to peak in early September and then gradually wane,” Hamre added. “Hopefully we can be more ‘normal’ by October, but this, of course, is just a guess.”

Auditions announcement: Hamre is holding auditions for the Fresno Master Chorale. At this time, the group is only accepting singers who are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus. Interested people should contact her at ahamre@csufresno.edu to set up an audition. “We are particularly looking for basses,” she says.


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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