World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is bowing out of the Fort Worth Symphony’s in-person Gala Concert next month as a COVID-19 pandemic precaution.
The FWSO announced January 22 that Ma would be replaced by pianist Yuja Wang at the annual fundraising concert, which precedes a black-tie dinner February 20 at Dickies Arena.
“Yo-Yo Ma committed to headlining our 2021 gala prior to the pandemic. For his own health and safety, Ma has canceled all live performances where travel is required,” FWSO president and CEO Keith Cerny said in an email January 25. “Out of an abundance of caution, he’s made the decision to withdraw from participating in the Fort Worth gala. While we are disappointed, we certainly understand and respect his decision.”
Ma, 65, resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is still making virtual appearances. Hours after FWSO announced his cancellation, Ma was unveiled as the headlining performer of an American Heart Association virtual ball in Houston on February 11, CultureMap Houston reported. Most recently, he performed "Amazing Grace" at the virtual Presidential Inauguration Celebrating America Concert on January 20.
FWSO is proceeding with a live event, where New York-based Wang will join the orchestra for the fan-favorite Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. Eric Jacobsen will conduct.
“The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s annual gala will go on as planned," Cerny says, "with acclaimed pianist Yuja Wang serving as an admirable substitute for a special evening of music and entertainment."
FWSO has been playing in-person concerts since last fall, limiting attendance and taking other safety precautions. Most concerts have taken place at Will Rogers Auditorium, while Bass Hall, of which FWSO is a resident company, remains closed.
Live, black-tie fundraising events are unusual right now. Almost all large galas and luncheons across North Texas, including Fort Worth's Jewel Charity Ball, were canceled or presented virtually when the pandemic began, a trend that continues into 2021 as community spread remains "substantial."
In normal years, the glittering FWSO Gala begins with a concert at Bass Hall, followed by a cocktail reception, dinner, live auction, and dancing at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel. By moving the whole event to the 14,000-seat Dickies Arena and reformatting slightly, FWSO feels confident they can present the gala safely, even indoors. An orchestra spokesman says there’ll be no cocktail hour nor dancing (although the FWSO website still calls it a "dinner and dance"). Masks will be required, except when eating or drinking.
“Since the event is at Dickies Arena, the FWSO will be adhering to their health and safety guidelines,” says FWSO spokesman Jeff Cheatham. “The dinner is at the same location — the concert will be on one side and, once completed, guests will adjourn to the other side of the arena to be seated for dinner at tables a minimum of 10 feet apart. All event staff will be tested prior to the event, with guests offered an onsite rapid-result test upon request.”
For ticket information contact the FWSO box office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-665-6000 or visit Ticketmaster.com. Anyone interested in attending the black-tie dinner at this point should contact Jonathan Neumann at email@example.com or call 817-665-6500 ext. 118.