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La Jolla Music Society to hold public outdoor concerts along with audience-free indoor livestreams

 Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center
The $82 million, 49,200-square-foot Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center opened in April 2019 on Fay Avenue in La Jolla.
(Darren Bradley)

As COVID-19 restrictions ease upon San Diego County shifting to the red tier, a new chapter looms with intimate, socially distanced chamber-music performances in the Wu Tsai Courtyard of the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

Change is in the air at the La Jolla Music Society, which is wasting no time returning to live public concerts as San Diego County eases some COVID-19 restrictions upon entering the red tier of the state’s reopening framework.

Barely a month after announcing that all nine of its February through June concerts at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center would become livestream-only affairs without an audience, the society is shifting gears. The 52-year-old nonprofit announced March 18 that six new concerts will be held in the center’s Wu Tsai Courtyard — two each in April, May and June — with plans to add more courtyard performances in coming months.

The six outdoor concerts by internationally celebrated artists such as cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Philippe Quint and pianist Yefim Bronfman will be in addition to the already announced livestreamed concerts. The hybrid of ticketed public outdoor performances — all with reduced seating capacities — and audience-free indoor livestreams is a new template for the society until county and state health officials approve the resumption of indoor concerts.

The initial six courtyard concerts will have seating capacity of 98 each. Seats will be in pods of two, with each pair of seats placed six feet from the other pairs. Patrons will be required to wear masks throughout each one-hour concert.

“Artistically speaking, it was vital for us to remain optimistic we could resume live concerts,” said Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director. “We made a commitment to continue to create various scenarios and contingency plans so that we could easily pivot and make announcements like we are now with the courtyard concerts.”

Todd Schultz, who in January became the society’s new president and chief executive, praised Rosenthal for being ahead of the curve in anticipating a return to live outdoor concerts.

“When we announced in February that all our remaining 2020-21 season concerts would pivot to livestream only, we actually knew we were going to try to do these courtyard performances, provided the county health restrictions were lifted in time. We are thrilled we are now in the red tier, which allows us to have these courtyard performances.

“We are making alternate plans for this summer to do indoor concerts if we are able. We also know that if we can go indoors later this summer, it very well still could have limited [audience] capacity. But moving back indoors would be the ideal scenario for us.”

The ability to pivot has been crucial for the society, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 with the opening of its $82 million, 49,200-square-foot Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

As originally announced last year, the society’s 2020-21 season boasted 41 concerts. As a result of the pandemic, 20 of those were postponed to future seasons, 12 were canceled and nine moved to livestream. The pandemic also led to the 2020 edition of the society’s annual SummerFest being reduced from 18 concerts at the center to just six livestreamed performances.

Going forward, streaming concerts will become a regular facet of the society’s presentations.

“We have four different scenarios we’re looking at now for SummerFest,” Schultz said.

“Our commitment,” Rosenthal said, “is to have streaming whether we are indoors, outdoors or whatever the scenario ends up being. Because even when the concert world opens up again, we know there will be some people who won’t be comfortable coming to concerts in person. And it’s so important to our organization to keep using this digital outreach, which has helped us keep going during the pandemic.”

Wu Tsai Courtyard concert schedule

Saturday, April 10: Inon Barnatan, Philippe Quint and Alisa Weilerstein perform music by Franck and Arensky, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tuesday, May 11: Yefim Bronfman performs music by Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin, 4:30 and 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 5: Zlatomir Fung and Richard Fu perform music by Beethoven, Sgambati and Servais, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets: $70 and $80 (on sale beginning at noon Thursday, March 18)

Phone: (858) 459-3728

Online: ljms.org