As Omicron spreads, Fresno Philharmonic cancels Jan. 16 Masterworks concert

The rapidly spreading Omicron variant has claimed another casualty: The Fresno Philharmonic will not perform its live Masterworks concert scheduled for Jan. 16.

The orchestra on Wednesday canceled the performance due to the continually evolving COVID-19 Omicron variant situation, said Stephen Wilson, president and CEO.

Pictured above: Rei Hotoda conducts the orchestra in a 2018 performance. Photo: Fresno Philharmonic

“With COVID case numbers rising significantly in Fresno County and elsewhere in California, the Philharmonic determined that the risks of assembling over 70 musicians, including unmasked wind and brass players, were simply too great given the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant,” Wilson said in a statement.

The orchestra returned to live performance in September, offering a fall series of Masterworks concerts at Shaghoian Hall. In a sign of a slow but steady ramping up of operations after the long pandemic closure, the orchestra returned to the Saroyan Theatre in December for its annual holiday concert and had planned to remain at the hall, which is nearly three times the size of the Shaghoian, for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

The Jan. 16 concert would have highlighted a program, including the Dvorak Symphony No. 9 in E minor, that called for a larger number of players than earlier concerts in the season – another sign of a return to normalcy. It would have featured a roster of 70 musicians.


The Omicron development is certainly a blow to arts organizations still reeling from loss of income and audience development during the pandemic. Just as with many industries, the cultural sector would not have survived without massive infusions of government aid. Whether that same kind of support will materialize with this latest disruption remains to be seen in today’s political climate.

One of the best ways to help keep all local arts organizations afloat is to donate tickets back for canceled performances. That’s an option for people with tickets to the Jan. 16 concert, along with exchanges or refunds.

The Fresno Philharmonic had mounted a vigorous response to the virus, with proof of vaccination and masks required for all live performances.

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In lieu of the canceled concert, on Jan. 16 the Philharmonic will release a new digital family concert featuring Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” on the orchestra’s YouTube channel. The video will be available for on demand streaming at no charge. The performance was recorded last June as part of the orchestra’s ongoing programming for schools and had not yet been released.

Trying to postpone the canceled concert was too difficult because of upcoming conflicts at the Saroyan Theatre. Calling the decision to cancel “painful,” Wilson said the Fresno Philharmonic does not anticipate any other changes to its Winter-Spring 2022 concert schedule.

The next live Fresno Philharmonic concert takes place on March 12, 2022 in Saroyan Theatre featuring the world premiere of Kenneth Froelich’s “Melt,” Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Mariachitlán” and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.”


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.

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you, Donald. This is all so disconcerting. Appreciate you


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