It’s hard to think back on anything before mid-March. But by then, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra had completed almost three-quarters of its fiscal year, which ended June 30. So the orchestra’s 2019-20 annual report, released Wednesday, covers a year that was nine months pre-pandemic, three months pandemic.
At its annual meeting of members, the SPCO announced a balanced budget with an operating surplus of $74,135 for FY20. This was its 25th balanced budget in the past 27 years. Expenses and revenue both decreased by approximately 11% compared to FY19 due to concert cancellations and economic conditions.
Of the SPCO’s nearly $10 million in revenue, 15 percent was earned, 19 percent came from its endowment and 66 percent was support from individuals, foundations, corporations and institutions. The total amount contributed to its Annual Fund fell by 7 percent from FY19. Corporate giving declined; individual giving stayed relatively stable. Many patrons continued their monthly memberships during the pandemic and turned their ticket purchases into contributions.
The surplus was added to the SPCO’s prophetic Rainy Day Fund, created by the orchestra’s board in 2017 to guard against future economic downturns. The original goal for the fund was $1 million, then 10% of the SPCO’s operating budget. The fund now stands at $762,000. Nine months into the pandemic, the SPCO has maintained salary and benefit levels for all musicians and staff. There have been no staffing or salary reductions.
Because concerts were canceled from mid-March through the end of the 2019-20 season, fewer audience members attended concerts in person. But factoring in visits to the SPCO’s robust online Concert Library, the SPCO reached its largest audience ever. The overall audience was just under 287,000, nearly 100,000 more than in 2018-19.
The Concert Library offers free video and audio streaming of SPCO concerts and has been home to the orchestra’s COVID-era livestreams and encore broadcasts. The Concert Library has also served as a learning and enrichment tool during the pandemic with newly created engagement resources for children, families and educators.
Its launch in June 2017 also turned out to be prophetic. “We could not have imagined that one day, the Concert Library would become our only means for delivering on our mission to share music with our community,” SPCO Artistic Director and Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim said in a statement.
Pre-pandemic, three newly appointed SPCO musicians began their tenures with the orchestra: Cassie Pilgrim, principal oboe; Richard Belcher, cello; and Eunae Koh, violin. A new artistic partner, Rob Kapilow, made his debut in April. (In May, all five artistic partners were furloughed to reduce expenses.) The SPCO and Capri Theater presented the second Northside Celebration, and the orchestra premiered four new works.
When COVID hit, the SPCO’s senior leadership and board set three main objectives for navigating the crisis: maintaining the organization’s financial health and sustainability, maintaining employment and compensation for staff and musicians, and adding as much value as possible to the community by sharing music in a safe and responsible manner. Said Managing Director and President Jon Limbacher, “We are so pleased that we’ve been able to achieve these core objectives to date.”
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
L Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 17-19: Cathedral of St. Paul and Luxmuralis: “Cathedral Illuminated: The Manger” drive-along event. Using the cathedral as a canvas, a large-scale light and sound projection will tell the story of the Nativity. Traditional and abstract imagery by creator and sculptor Peter Walker and an original score by David Harper (to be broadcast on a local radio frequency TBA) will combine in a 12-minute show that will run on a continuous loop on the eastern (front) façade. St. Paul police will direct traffic one way heading north along Summit Avenue and allow vehicles to stop temporarily in front of the cathedral to watch the show. Pedestrians aren’t allowed and you must stay in your car. If you can’t go in person, “Cathedral Illuminated” will also stream live on the Cathedral Heritage Foundation’s Facebook page. Free. This will be the U.S. debut of the British company Luxmuralis (take a look at their website). In a gesture of connection and unity, the show will run concurrently at Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire, England.
V Available starting Friday, Dec. 18: Theater Latté Da and myTalk Radio: “A Christmas Carole Peterson” podcast. Are you looking for a dose of nostalgia? Created 20 years ago by storyteller Tod Peterson and director Peter Rothstein, a Latté Da staple in the oughts and revisited often since then, “A Christmas Carole Peterson” is Tod’s fan letter to his mom and their family holidays in Mankato in the 1960s and ’70s. Put on your headphones or pop in your earbuds and go somewhere/somewhen else for a while. On the myTalk app, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. For three nights, Dec. 21-24, you can hear it on myTalk radio, 107.1FM, at 7 p.m.
V Saturday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m.: Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra: “Variations.” An evening of 20th- and 21st-century voices from the Twin Cities’ GLBTQA orchestra, whose artistic director is Brian Dowdy. Small ensembles and soloists will perform music by Libby Larsen, Claude Bolling, Dušan Bogdanović, Heitor Villa-Lobos, J.S. Bach, Anthony R. Green and Eugène Ysaÿe – not your usual concert program. FMI on the website and on MPO’s Facebook page. Free on YouTube. Donations suggested (by us). (That “by us” was borrowed from Secrets of the City. Every arts organization needs help these days.)
V Saturday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m.: Penumbra Theatre: Celebration of the Soul. A virtual concert of favorites from Penumbra’s beloved “Black Nativity,” always one of the most genuinely uplifting and inspiring events of the holiday season. We will sorely miss the live experience but are grateful that Penumbra will host what they’re calling “a warm, casual gathering.” With Greta Oglesby, Dennis Spears and Jamecia Bennett, hosted by T. Mychael Rambo and Regina Marie Williams, musical direction from Sanford Moore, directed by Lou Bellamy. Free, with registration required and donations appreciated.
V Saturday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m.: Hennepin Theatre Trust: “A (Virtual) Christmas Vacation with the Griswolds: An Evening with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.” Families have their favorite Christmas films. For some, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For others, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The Griswold magic lives on in a salute to the holiday classic. Chevy Chase (Clark) and Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen) will share clips, quips, behind-the-scenes moments and memories. They will also take questions in a live audience Q&A. FMI and tickets ($25/$50/$150).