Joseph Giunta

Iowa’s largest single-day concert event draws 100,000 people to the state capitol lawn every year, except this year, as the pandemic cancelled the Des Moines Symphony’s Yankee Doodle Pops — and most every other live show in all genres.

Conductor Joseph Giunta says these times are extremely disappointing and challenging for performers and for music lovers, so they’ve decided to offer a series of three live-streamed concerts this fall. “The important thing is that we want to make as much available online as we can,” Giunta says. “Nothing is ever going to take the place of live music and live experiences that we have brought the community for over 80 years.”

The orchestra usually includes 90 to 100 musicians, but will be whittled down to 35 for the live stream performances at the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the musicians will be spaced six feet apart and there will be -no- audience in front of them. Giunta admits, he wishes he could bottle the “magic” a live audience provides and sprinkle it on the performers.

“An audience gives us that extra inch of enthusiasm and excitement and professionalism,” Giunta says, “and without the audience, it’s going to be — to be perfectly honest with you — eerie.” The maestro says it’s a three-legged stool: the music, the performers and the audience, and when one of those elements is missing, they run the risk of being average, at best.

Now in his 31st year as music director and conductor of the Des Moines Symphony, Giunta says he’s striving to make the live stream shows a spectacle. He assures, it won’t be a simple wide shot showing the whole group performing from a distance.

“We’ve hired a television film crew so that we’re looking at these things as more creative and exciting visual — as well as aural — experiences,” Giunta says. “The film crew we’ve hired is going to be pretty special, I hope, in making these things exciting and creative for audiences.”

In addition to the live stream concerts, Iowa’s largest orchestra is also offering special interviews, behind-the-scenes videos, classes, and virtual social events. Still, he’s hoping the live performances, which begin October 1st, will lure in a wide audience via the internet.

“These things are going to go out all over the world, so the number of people, the number of hits that we can get on our website and through livestreaming is absolutely overwhelming,” Giunta says. “We’re looking forward to seeing how much interest we can generate.”

While the situation with COVID-19 often changes from day-to-day, Giunta says they’re working toward the goal of returning to in-person concerts with the orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve Pops Concert on December 31st, 2020.