At least three Orange County arts organizations have canceled or postponed performances this month due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus pandemic. And many more are considering cancellations, postponements and other adjustments due to the highly infectious nature of the latest variant.

Pacific Symphony has postponed concerts scheduled to take place this week, including “Mozart and Mahler” originally scheduled for Jan. 6-8, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 9. Ticket holders will be able to attend concerts featuring the same repertoire on June 23-26.

“In consultation with guest artists, musicians and health experts, and given the proximity of these concerts to the holiday travel season, we decided to postpone the program,” said John Forsyte, president and CEO of Pacific Symphony, in a statement.

“We want to start off the new year honoring our ongoing commitment to the well-being of our audiences, musicians and staff. We take that responsibility seriously, so we appreciate your understanding, apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to our performances later this month.”

South Coast Repertory has canceled preview performances, Jan. 7-14, of “Last Stop on Market Street,” a Theatre for Young Audiences collaboration between SCR and Oanh Nguyen, the founding artistic director of Chance Theater in Anaheim. The production is now scheduled to open Jan. 16, instead of Jan. 15, and run through Jan. 23.

In Aliso Viejo, the Soka Performing Arts Center is postponing its 10th anniversary season opening by two weeks. Pianist Emanuel Ax was scheduled for Jan. 9; he will now perform there on April 19. Soul multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones was scheduled to perform Jan. 15; he is now on the books for Oct. 15. And Pacific Symphony was supposed to perform George Walker and Beethoven works with Stefan Milenkovich on Jan. 16. The concert is being postponed to a later date to be announced.

Emanuel Ax Credit: Photo courtesy of Soka PAC/Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Soka is still expecting to open its 10th season with pianist Yefim Bronfman on Jan. 21.

“We’re putting safety first,” said Renee Bodie, general manager of Soka Performing Arts Center. “As we’ve seen at other performing arts venues, people are not ready to jump back into full performance. Attendance has been a bit lower across the board. We’re being cautious, which is a good thing.”

The postponements come at an unfortunate time for Soka, as the venue was already one of the last performing arts organizations in the region to open its 2021-22 season, and it was gearing up for its 10th anniversary with some eye- (and ear-)catching performances.

“Of course it’s a curveball,” Bodie said. “But we have gotten really good at pivoting. It’s disappointing, but on the other hand, we just move forward, like we always have.”

Other Orange County venues are playing it by ear, and have not yet made major announcements of postponements or cancellations. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa still plans to hold an outdoor Dia de los Reyes event Saturday, Jan. 8 on the Argyros Plaza, and the center is still selling tickets for “My Fair Lady,” Jan. 11-23, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Jan. 14. For those latter two indoor performances, all ticket holders must wear a mask and provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, or have negative PCR or Antigen tests taken within 48 hours or six hours of performance, respectively.

The Irvine Barclay Theatre still plans to present the Myriad Trio on Jan. 12 and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Branford Marsalis on Jan. 15. Masks and proof of vaccination will be required. 

Barclay president Jerry Mandel said in a statement: “As of now, Irvine Barclay Theatre is not planning on postponing any of our upcoming shows, and we look forward to our scheduled programming. We are closely monitoring the evolving data from the latest surge and will notify ticket buyers in the event of a cancellation or postponement.”

In the visual arts world, no O.C. museums have announced any closures. A 2021 German study indicated that museums are safer than any other public indoor environment, because of their already robust air filtration systems and the fact that visitors naturally keep their distance from each other, even before the pandemic.

The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is still planning to hold a reception for “The Visual Adventures of Robert Williams” on Saturday, Jan. 8. The star of the group show, 78-year-old artist, Juxtapoz magazine founder and “lowbrow” king Williams, is still planning to attend, he said in an interview last week.

However, OCCCA has made some adjustments to the reception, according to board members. Masks and social distancing will be required, and OCCCA is considering the possibility of checking for vaccination cards, a spokeswoman said. There will be no bar available, two doors will be kept open during the entire event, and the reception’s new hours will be 6:30-10 p.m., rather than the originally scheduled 6-11 p.m.

With the highly infectious Omicron variant still spreading, changes could be made on a daily basis. On the national level, the Sundance Film Festival, scheduled for Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah, has decided to go virtual instead of in-person. And the 64th annual Grammy Awards were supposed to take place at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Jan. 31. However, that show and broadcast has been postponed to a later date, yet to be determined.

Voice of OC will monitor local arts and culture events and venues, and provide updates as changes are announced.

Richard Chang is senior editor for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at rchang@voiceofoc.org.


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