The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra was the last ensemble to hold a live performance before COVID-19 forced venues to shut down last March.

About 200 people sat scattered throughout the sizable St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church main hall that Sunday afternoon in mid-March to hear the orchestra perform Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. And when it was over, the orchestra, like its counterparts in Tucson and throughout the country, shuttered to wait out the pandemic that has put live entertainment on hold worldwide.

This weekend, the orchestra will tiptoe back when 16 members of its string section perform a concert of serenades by Mozart, Dvorák and Tchaikovsky. The ensemble will perform the concert without an audience at SaddleBrooke’s DesertView Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 17, and before an audience of no more than 50 on Sunday, Oct. 18, at the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance’s Catalyst Arts & Maker Space in the Tucson Mall.

Both concerts will be livestreamed, although the SaddleBrooke one will be available only to those residents.

SASO Music Director Linus Lerner said the players will be socially distanced and everyone on stage will wear masks in keeping with state and federal health guidelines. Audience members at the Catalyst concert will be required to wear masks.

The ensemble will perform the first movement of Mozart’s famous Serenade No. 13 in G major “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” which Lerner has paired with serenades by Dvorák and Tchaikovsky that were composed a couple of years apart.

“They go beautifully together. They are great pieces to be together,” said Lerner, who returned to Tucson last week after months of being stuck in his native Brazil.

Lerner conducts two orchestras in Brazil and had returned the day after SASO’s concert last March. When the coronavirus intensified last spring, the U.S. limited travel from Brazil and Lerner was forced to stay put.

This weekend’s concerts will be performed with no intermission. Tickets for the Catalyst concert are available on SASO’s website,

#ThisIsTucson is member-supported. Your contribution helps our team bring you stories that keep you connected to the community. Become a member today.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch