The Scoop: Since the 1960s, The Florida Orchestra has impressed audiences with concerts that put Tampa Bay’s most talented musicians in the spotlight. Although the orchestra faced challenges in 2020, the show has gone on under the leadership of TFO President and CEO Mark Cantrell. With public safety measures in place, The Florida Orchestra has created a lineup of live performances that can get couples into a new dating rhythm and provide an upbeat distraction from the everyday.

The summer of 2020 brought unprecedented challenges to the arts community. Lockdowns left many people craving catharsis and connection, but traditional entertainment venues — concert halls, stadiums, museums, and theaters —  can pose public health risks during a pandemic.

Local leaders at The Florida Orchestra put their heads together to figure out ways to mitigate the risk and provide a much-needed outlet for music lovers in the Tampa Bay area.

The organization’s board members, musicians, and staff worked in harmony with the Mahaffey Theater to come to a new arrangement that suited the new normal. The TFO team consulted with an epidemiologist to develop a comprehensive safety plan for a phased reopening of live performances.

After months of virtual performances and canceled events, The Florida Orchestra announced a reimagined season that started on October 31, 2020.

Photo of the Mahaffey Theater

The Mahaffey Theater hosts TFO performances that enchant and delight audiences.

TFO’s reimagined season is now in its third and final phase with a full concert lineup running until the end of May. The Florida Orchestra has implemented rigorous safety measures, including face masks, spaced seating in pairs, extensive testing for musicians, and stringent cleaning of the theater.

These protocols have allowed The Florida Orchestra to carry on making music and entertaining people on date nights, family outings, and social experiences that are as safe as possible. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people need a reason to smile and forget their troubles, and that’s exactly what TFO is all about. It’s an escape through music.

“[Music] reminds us of the deeper meaning in our lives,” said TFO President and CEO Mark Cantrell. “It has been the heart and soul of this orchestra and the Tampa Bay community for more than 52 years.”

The Reimagined Series Enters Phase 3

The Florida Orchestra proudly maintains the largest processional orchestra in Florida. It is among Tampa Bay’s leading performing arts institutions. So it was important to the TFO team to get its reopening right and set high standards of excellence for others in the arts community.

From Oct. 31 to Jan. 31, The Florida Orchestra put on an impressive 43 performances under the protection of its COVID-19 safety measures. The arts organization was among the first to pioneer a reopening plan, and it remains one of the safest places to enjoy a live concert during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase 3 of the reimagined series is already under way and making headlines for its vibrant and joyful lineup. Under the leadership of Music Director Michael Francis, the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series can offer an evening of serenity during these difficult times. Its performances include Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Jeffrey Multer, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

Photo from TFO

The Florida Orchestra highlights a wide range of moving musical pieces.

From Mozart’s Horn Concerts to Gershwin’s Blue Rhapsody, The Florida Orchestra has a talent for making classical music more accessible to a modern audience.

If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, the Raymond James Pop series promises to entertain. For example, Dan Black & the (TFO) Brass Cats features music from “Star Wars” and The Beatles, as well as “Stars and Stripes Forever” like you’ve never heard it before.

Couples who prefer stay-at-home dates don’t have to miss out on the fun. Anyone can go on The Florida Orchestra website to tune into livestream concerts for free. These virtual concerts can set the tone for an intimate and cultured evening at home.

The Florida Orchestra puts on thought-provoking and emotionally stirring performances that can carry audiences away using the power of music. Daters in Tampa Bay can enjoy a unique experience and discover new passions by grabbing a seat at a TFO performance this season.

Audiences Give the Concerts a Standing Ovation

Couples on a date can break the ice and expand their horizons by following The Florida Orchestra’s performances and community activities. Whether it’s organizing pre-concert conversations or engaging with folks on social media, the TFO team continually reaches out to audiences and fosters a greater appreciation for all types of music.

The TFO Facebook page is particularly active with over 21,000 followers keeping up with the latest events and sharing their reactions to the performances.

“Wonderful to see live music again,” said a Facebook user named Robin on a TFO post. “Thanks for the extraordinary precautions to keep the musicians and audience safe.”

Photo of the audience

The audience may be socially distant, but they can still connect with music.

A man named Tony said that TFO’s music helped him deal with stress during an emotionally trying year. “Can’t thank you enough for all that you have done to keep the show safe for everyone,” he said on Facebook.

The Florida Orchestra has also racked up dozens of positive ratings on TripAdvisor. Attendees often say they were blown away by the performances — even if they weren’t well-versed in classical music. The shows do not require any prior knowledge or experience. The TFO aims to entertain newcomers as well as seasoned orchestra fans.

“It was a wonderful outdoor concert. Lots of little kids running around. Very much a family affair,” Ryland commented about a TFO performance in The Vinoy Park. “Would recommend it highly.”

“We have heard orchestras in many cities and countries, and I would rank The Florida Orchestra as pretty amazing for its size,” Michele wrote in a five-star review. “They play their hearts out and they got a standing ovation and several curtain calls — deservedly so.”

The Florida Orchestra has stayed afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the continued support and loyalty of local patrons. The musicians are thankful to everyone who buys a ticket or makes a donation to support everything the TFO stands for.

“We believe in the power of music to unify and heal our community now and when this COVID-19 pandemic ends,” the TFO team said. “We need your help now more than ever to keep the music and our mission going.”

The Florida Orchestra Uses Music to Lift People’s Spirits

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill in 2020. It was a time of painful separation and uncertainty, but phased reopenings in fall 2020 and in the spring of this year have helped people return to the simple pleasures of life. The Florida Orchestra has taken steps to ensure its live performances keep audiences safe and enthralled.

Couples can attend a TFO performance — or catch the livestream at home — to go outside their typical dating routine and add a note of excitement to their evenings.

Thanks to its safety protocols, The Florida Orchestra has been able to weather the pandemic and continue to bring entertainment, culture, and inspiration to the Tampa Bay community.

“The music of The Florida Orchestra is courage, hope, joy, grief – everything people are feeling in this pandemic,” Mark said. “As long as it is safe to do so, we will find a way to perform because we know music helps people cope.”

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