The surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus over the last two weeks has caused some last-minute changes to New Year’s plans in Philadelphia.
The classical voice ensemble Choral Arts has canceled its New Year’s Eve concert at the Episcopal Cathedral in West Philadelphia, where it would have performed Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
Pre-pandemic, a Christmas choral program on New Year’s Eve has proven to be popular with audiences, with many people returning every year for the late afternoon performance.
But this year, just three days before the concert, Choral Arts called it off. Artistic director Matt Glandorf said the risks are too great, considering the increased ability of singers to spread a respiratory infection.
“What we had been told from the beginning was that vaccinated people mingling with other vaccinated people meant you were basically OK. That no longer holds true,” said Glandorf. “I had to weigh the health and safety of the 40 singers and 20 instrumentalists. I have 12 wind and brass players in the band who obviously cannot wear a mask in order to play.”
The Philadelphia Orchestra has not canceled its concert this Friday, but did announce a last-minute change in the lineup.
Originally the orchestra was going to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and a newer work by composer Gabriela Lena Frank, “Pachamama Meets an Ode,” both of which involve choral singing. On Monday, the orchestra quickly switched to works that do not feature any singing, as a pandemic precaution: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”
Another venue in town, PhilaMOCA, an alternative and punk venue at 12th and Spring Garden streets, has canceled its New Year’s Eve concert because most of the bands on the bill have pulled out, including the co-headliner Colleen Green.
Manager Eric Bresler has been putting on successful shows every week since reopening last summer, but over the last 10 days, every concert has been canceled since the onset of omicron.
“I am a bit nervous about January,” Bresler said. “We have a packed calendar for January. I’m guessing a lot of the events will be postponed. I think everyone’s kind of waiting on the post-holiday omicron numbers to come out.”
As one of the only all-ages venues in the city to regularly feature alternative music and underground film, PhilaMOCA has built an audience of fans that keep coming back to see local and out-of-town bands and Bresler’s eccentric taste in film.
“Our attendance base is very loyal and very trusting. I think that we have an obligation to them to show that, yes, we do care that you are entering the safest room possible. We do not take any chances,” he said. “But we still totally understand if you’re not comfortable coming out right now and I am prepared to — if it was mandated — shut down for a month or two. I wouldn’t complain.”
A New Years’ Eve concert of local bands at Underground Arts has also been postponed because of pandemic concerns, which would have featured the West Philly Orchestra, Johnny Showcase and the Mystic Ticket, and Snacktime Philly. Recently Snacktime had to cancel its planned studio time for its first recorded release, for the same reason.
Other events are still planned to go forward, including the local jam band the Disco Biscuits at the Fillmore in Fishtown, and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is a festival of dubstep music, Hijinx.
The Mummers Parade is still scheduled to go on, as are the fireworks on the Delaware River waterfront. This year for the first time, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation will feature fireworks on the river, on both New Year’s Eve and the evening of New Year’s Day.