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Pittsburgh Symphony Returns To Public Performances At Heinz Hall

Pittsburgh Symphony Sept. 14, 2021, rehearsal
Bill O'Driscoll
90.5 WESA
The full Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra rehearses with music director Manfred Honeck (standing on riser) for the first time in nearly two years, at Heinz Hall Sept. 14.

Like every other performing arts group, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra called a dead halt to live shows in mid-March 2020. It had been even longer since the PSO gathered with music director Manfred Honeck at Heinz Hall.

But just in time for the 50th anniversary of Heinz Hall — and after 18 months of virtual and outdoor performances — the full 100-piece orchestra finally rehearsed with Honeck again, on Sept. 14. And Friday and Sunday, the PSO will play its first public concerts at Heinz Hall since the pandemic began.

The program includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and famed guest pianist Hélène Grimaud performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major.

“To be able to launch our 50th anniversary at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts with this incredible concert is — it’s incredibly emotional for us to get the team back together, so to speak,” said PSO president and CEO Melia Tourangeau, speaking to reporters during that Sept. 14 rehearsal (which preceded last week’s performance at a private PSO gala at Heinz Hall).

The milestone continues the reopening of Pittsburgh’s indoor arts-and-culture venues, even in the face of rising cases of COVID-19. Like most of the city’s bigger arts groups, the PSO is requiring patrons to present proof of vaccination to attend, and making masking mandatory for all attendees.

Tourangeau said the vaccination policy is critical to the PSO’s return to Heinz Hall.

“I think people were really wondering what our policies were going to be, and when we put the need to show proof of vaccination, then I think people felt much more comfortable about coming back,” she said.

Heinz Hall, originally the Loew’s Penn Theater, opened Sept. 10, 1971 after a three-year, $10 million renovation spearheaded by civic leaders staved off demolition of the grand former movie theater.

More information about the PSO’s season-opening program is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email:
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