Smaller arts organizations around San Antonio are returning to life, announcing their 2021-22 performance seasons with full schedules of live, in-person events even as the delta COVID-19 variant complicates the city’s emergence from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s kind of hard to answer that right now,” said Paul Montalvo, Classical Music Institute’s co-founder and artistic director, when asked what pandemic safety protocols will be in place for the group’s 10 upcoming concerts.

The first two concerts of the season will take place in the Carlos Alvarez Theater at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, so Tobin Center protocols will be followed, Montalvo said.

As of now, those include touchless payments and mandatory face coverings when not seated. Given uncertainties concerning vaccination mandates in Texas, the venue does not request proof of vaccination from ticketed guests, though touring performing artists can require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the event.

Classical Music Institute

Though the theme of the CMI season might seem to be a hopeful reference to post-pandemic life, Forbidden and Forgotten actually refers to music that was once subject to censorship or has been mostly lost to time.

CMI annually presents a series of chamber music concerts culminating with performances of its Ascend education program students and faculty. Its new season begins Nov. 15 with “Unforgettable Beginnings,” which includes two pieces by Ernest Bloch, a Swiss composer considered during his lifetime as the “fourth ‘B’” after Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. In between is String Quartet No. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, well-regarded in his home country of Brazil but largely unknown for his chamber music in other countries.

Guest conductor Gemma New leads the Classical Music Institute chamber orchestra during a February 2019 concert at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Guest conductor Gemma New leads the Classical Music Institute chamber orchestra during a February 2019 concert at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Credit: Courtesy / Siggi Ragnar

The following concert on March 5 will serve as an introduction for many to Wisconsin composer Gloria Coates, alongside pioneering Black American composer Florence Beatrice Price, Lori Laitman, and Grammy Award winner Edgar Meyer in the humorously titled Don’t Forget (US) Americans! program.

CMI is a Tobin Center resident company, but will extend its range of venues to include the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall at Trinity University, the Bennack Concert Hall at University of the Incarnate Word, Texas A&M University San Antonio, and the Edgewood Theatre of Performing Arts for CMI’s student and faculty concert on Jun. 24. Most intriguingly, the June 23 concert featuring string quartets by Joseph Holbrooke and Alexander von Zemlinsky will be held in the Cave Without A Name in Boerne.

An Austrian Jewish composer, Zemlinsky’s music was banned by Nazis in pre-war Germany. His String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15 is ideal for the unusual underground setting, Montalvo said, at once stormy, subtle, chaotic, and melodic, a “light within a cave” and “voices calling out in this darkness.”

He recommends audiences check for updated venue-specific safety protocols as the season progresses.

Carver Center

The Carver Community Cultural Center opens its season Oct. 8 with rhythm-and-blues singer Mykal Kylgore and jazz vocalist and percussionist Jamison Ross. A full slate of mainstage performances runs through June 3, largely reviving the Carver’s lost events of the past 18 months, including the Hiplet Ballerinas on Jan. 22, who fuse classical ballet, Hip-Hop, African, Latin, and other urban dance styles.

As a city-owned venue, the Carver Center abides by current local governmental guidelines, which include recommendations for mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccination.

The Little Carver Intimate Series opens in the venue’s smaller theater Nov. 12 with popular San Antonio singer Alyson Alonzo. MC² & The S.O.U.L. group of musical veterans relates their experiences serving in the military through blues, gospel, jazz, soul, spoken word, and rock styles on Jan. 8.

Drummer Kory Cook can frequently be found performing behind San Antonio honky tonk musician Garrett T. Capps, and heard weekly as a DJ on his jazz program on KRTU 91.7. On March 4, Cook brings his free-jazz trio The Whale to the Little Carver in advance of the group’s 2022 release Sweetheart 2.

Identified as a “healing speaker, actress and poet,” Jess Mahogany closes out the season April 22 with selections from her upcoming book of poetry, Conversation Pieces.

Youth Orchestras

The Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) returned to the stage in May and now looks forward to a season of programs for its premier group, the YOSA Philharmonic.

With all performances at the Tobin Center, the season begins Oct. 31 with the Music in Motion program focused on compositions from around the globe, with “lively dances” by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and Bedřich Smetana of Bohemia.

The Jan. 23 Pictures at an Exhibition program will include a visual component echoing the title Mussorgsky’s famous piano-focused suite, with artwork by San Antonio high school students on display, and the Scheherazade program of May 8 will feature dancers of the San Antonio Youth Ballet alongside YOSA musicians, helping to weave the tales of Arabian Nights set to Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s music.

Musical Bridges

In enthusiastically announcing its lineup of the sponsor-named Russell Hill Rogers Musical Evenings concert series, Musical Bridges Around the World states that the organization “will follow all health guidelines” and is aware of the latest spike in coronavirus cases.

With all five concerts to take place in the San Fernando Cathedral, MBAW Marketing Manager Sean Kithas said the group “will agree to any requirements that the Cathedral makes moving forward and are currently in discussion with them about this.”

The season begins Oct. 3 with Don’t Cry for Me Argentina with bandoneon player and composer JP Jofre & his Hard Tango Chamber Band, alongside singer Sofia Tosello. Nov. 21, past MBAW performers the Janoska Ensemble return with a “Baroque Groove” program of composers Vivaldi, Vitali, Bach, and Handel.

(From left) Chen Yan and Zhang Jianzhen perform in Musical Bridges Around the World's program "Gems of China" at San Fernando Cathedral.
(From left) Chen Yan and Zhang Jianzhen perform in Musical Bridges Around the World’s program “Gems of China” at San Fernando Cathedral in 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

A “quilt” of artists including San Antonians Aaron Prado and San Antonio poet laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson celebrate the history of African American culture for a Jan. 23 Dreamweek concert, while Germany, Russia, and China all figure into the concerts of Apr. 10 and May 8, respectively featuring the Atrium String Quartet and pianist Jiale Li with the Russian String Orchestra.

MBWA fans will recall Li as the winner of the 2020 Gurwitz International Piano Competition, marking his return to San Antonio.

One pandemic-era loss is MBAW’s popular “meet the artist” post-concert receptions, canceled until further notice.

The organization will provide virtual access to the concerts in the week following each event on its YouTube channel and website, and will provide concert programs in digital form using a QR code.

St. John’s Lutheran Church

St. John’s Lutheran Church has announced the return of its First Friday Luncheon Concert Series, with a 2021-22 season including fall performances by the Trinity University Chamber Singers, violinist Andrew Small, and soprano Erin McAdams. Programming currently runs through Dec. 3, with spring concerts to be announced at a later date.

The series begins Sept. 3 with the Moipei Triplets vocal trio, originally from Kenya and now located in San Antonio. Their beguiling harmonies have entranced local audiences, and attracted attention outside the city with a fall performance slated for New York City’s iconic Birdland Theatre.

St. John’s makes the free noontime concerts easily accessible with free parking and a lunch meal for a $5 suggested donation.

Masks will be required for all concerts, and the church will observe social distancing protocols. Additionally, the church website states, “our post-concert luncheon will be served brown-bag style for the time being and patrons may choose to dine in our Memorial Hall or take their meal to go.”

Following a frequently echoed refrain among performing arts groups, the statement concludes, “these protocols and our performance season will be re-evaluated on a continual basis and subject to change.”

Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the ownership of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. It is owned by the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...