Limited MOSC musicians ready for Mozart performance

When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was writing and composing music, he was writing pieces for orchestras that were fewer than 80 musicians during the 1700s.
That should come in handy for the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale when it returns to the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center later this month for their masterworks series titled: Mostly Mozart.
The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 30.
Because of COVID safety protocols, the Midland-Odessa Symphony has seen a reduced number of musicians on stage to help with social distancing.
Regardless, MOSC program executive director Ethan Wills has been pleased with what they’ve been able to accomplish in the face of the pandemic and still put on a masterful performance.
“It’s actually kind of nice,” Wills said. “When Mozart was writing symphonies, they were still pretty small. They got bigger over the years over the centuries. But by modern day standards, they were pretty small. By playing a Mozart piece fully as he would’ve expected in his time, it was way less than the 80 person orchestra. We’re performing them as they were meant to be played. The Midland-Odessa symphony players have been really good at going above and beyond to do what’s needed of their ability to get the job done.”
Led by music director and conductor Gary Lewis, the program celebrates the rich musical repertoire of one of the most beloved composers of all time in Mozart.
“It’s part of our masterworks that we do,” Wills said. “This is one of the four concerts that we would do in our regular season but this is not a regular season. This is our first masterworks of the season.”
The program will open with the overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio” which is one of the well-known operas that Mozart was commissioned to write at age 26.
Mozart’s 41st Symphony “Jupiter” will also be performed.
Longtime oboe player Caryn Crutchfield will be the featured musician.
“She’s a fantastic oboe player,” Wills said. “We usually do this once a year where we feature one of our longstanding musicians that have held a good spot with us and it’s her time. That was decided before the pandemic. We’re glad that we’ve been able to do it.”
Crutchfield is playing in her 25th season with the orchestra and is an accomplished musician and longtime music educator as her talents will be showcased in David Mulikin’s Oboe Concerto.
“It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music,” Crutchfield said of the concerto. “It doesn’t follow the traditional form of fast, slow, fast. It has four movements. The beginning is not that fast. The second movement is super fast. The third is absolutely gorgeous where I get to interact with our cellist. It feels like you’re playing in a movie. It’s so pretty and sounds like movie music. The instrumentation is unique for this piece. We have strings, percussion and harp and the percussion adds so much to the piece.”
Crutchfield has been playing the oboe for 35 years now.
“I originally started off as a flute player in the fifth grade,” Crutchfield said. “I went to junior high and there were 24 flutes and I thought ‘forget that. I don’t want to be one of that many people.’ I got the oboe out and started working on it. My dad played the bassoon and his brother played the oboe. It’s in my family.”
Trying to hold a performance in the middle of a pandemic has presented every symphony across the country with a unique challenge and the MOSC, like everyone else, has had to find ways to help keep the show going without putting audience members and musicians’ lives in jeopardy.
“It’s been kind of weird,” Wills said. “Quite honestly, I’ve felt like I’m fighting this duality where if you’re open and having something, it means you don’t care and if you’re closed, you care.
“I think there’s a middle ground, especially with what we have available because the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center being so large. We can reduce the seating that’s available to patrons. We can spread out the musicians on stage. … The Wagner Noël staff has done an amazing job of creating a seating arrangement to make sure that everyone is distanced from each other. Masks are required in the lobby. They’ve changed their protocols on checking bags and hand sanitizer is available.”
He says the musicians have been doing a lot.
“They’re distanced out which makes it harder to play,” Wills said. “It’s hard to do that. A lot of our wind instruments are using bell covers which is basically a mask for their instruments. Anyone that’s not blowing wind has to have a mask on like our string players and percussionists. It’s interesting how that works. We’re doing everything we can to the safest option.”
Intermissions have also been changed accordingly.
“Our intermission, if we have one, we’re calling that based on (what we’re doing),” Wills said. “We don’t want people congregating but we also need to clear the air in the concert hall. We’re either expanding the intermission or nixing it altogether, depending on what’s going on.”
Usually the MOSC contains close to 80 musicians but that number has decreased during the pandemic.
“It depends on the music you’re playing,” Wills said. “Normally, we’re at about 80 musicians. We’re never going to have 80 on the stage for a concert, at least in the coming months. For this one, we’re less than 60 on stage at a time. Depending on the piece of music, it could be around 20 or 30. We’re picking music that can be a low number.”
Seating for the event will be socially distanced and therefore limited. Patrons are to wear their mask and follow all safety precautions outlined by the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
Tickets (which start at $10) can be purchased at
The MOSC is also scheduled to do a masterworks concert titled: Tchaikovsky Four which is supposed to take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 10 and will feature David Requiro on cello. Tickets for that event will go on sale on March 11.