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The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was in the midst of its long-planned BeethovenFest – marking the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth – when the coronavirus pandemic made continuing live performances with an audience impossible. On Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that all gatherings of 250 people or more would be banned as the province fights to contain the virus.

The VSO, which had already established a COVID-19 task force, comprising five board members and five administrative staff, quickly came up with a plan to livestream Sunday’s festival finale.

“We have access to our performing venue; we just can’t have an audience,” says VSO president and CEO Angela Elster. “So we wanted to find a bridge to our audience through technology.”

Coronavirus-related cancellations sweep across Canadian cultural scene

Saturday night’s concert could not go ahead even without an audience because, with full chorus, there would be more than 250 performers alone. But on Sunday at 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET), VSO music director Otto Tausk will conduct the orchestra with pianist Saleem Ashkar in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Sixth Symphony Pastorale. They’re calling it the BeethovenFest Virtual Finale.

“We are facing unprecedented times and we need music now more than ever,” the orchestra wrote in an e-mail to patrons on Saturday. The e-mail also explained that the word “symphony” means “coming together.”

The VSO is asking people to consider making a donation to help the organization navigate these unprecedented events.

“We are so grateful to be able to make music with you and for you,” the orchestra wrote on its livestream page. “The VSO is taking a short intermission from live performances and looks forward to playing again for you very soon.”

The Globe and Mail will show the livestream of the concert on this page, so please check back at 5 p.m. ET.

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