The Bee didn’t plan it this way, but it certainly made for interesting timing. The Fresno Philharmonic’s first subscription concerts in the new Shaghoian Hall took place the same weekend that The Bee’s George Hostetter filled us in on the shaky finances of the city’s Convention Center.
That’s because the center includes the Saroyan Theatre, in which the Fresno Philharmonic used to perform exclusively. For its three performances of the Mozart Requiem this past weekend, the orchestra turned to the smaller Shaghoian on the campus of Clovis North High School. (The orchestra did perform previously in the hall in 2010 in a non-subscription concert.)
With its state-of-the-art acoustics, the Shaghoian has a lot to offer the Fresno Philharmonic. And at about 800 seats, it’s roughly a third the size of the Saroyan, which is a better fit for the orchestra’s average audience sizes. (Three performances at the Shaghoian adds up to roughly the same number of seats as one Saroyan performance. When the orchestra holds one of its Masterworks program at the Saroyan, it plays twice, making about 4,700 seats to fill, far more than its usual attendance.)
At Friday’s concert, audience members were encouraged to fill out surveys asking people what they think of the Shaghoian as a venue.
Today I asked Stephen Wilson, the orchestra’s executive director, if the Fresno Philharmonic will hold more concerts at the Shaghoian in the 2013-14 season. The answer was yes. At least two of next season’s Masterworks series of concerts will be held at the Shaghoian instead of the Saroyan — and possibly a third. That translates to either six or nine concert dates.
The orchestra’s pops series will continue to be held at the Saroyan along with the rest of the Masterworks concerts. (To put this in perspective, the orchestra this season will hold five Masterworks programs and three pops concerts, which are performed singly.) “We aren’t abandoning the Saroyan and leaving downtown,” Wilson emphasized.
Still, even the loss of some of the orchestra’s dates would seem to hurt the Saroyan. Add to that Fresno Grand Opera’s shift to the Shaghoian for the majority of this year’s season, and you have a lot less local culture taking place downtown.