Extreme heat in Austin forced a symphony to cancel 3 of its last 5 outdoor shows, a first

Texas reported its warmest April to June period on record.

July 14, 2022, 4:51 PM

For the first time in its 20 years of running the Hartman Foundation Concerts in the Park outdoor series, the Austin Symphony has had to cancel three of its last five shows because of the city's extreme heat.

Parts of Texas continue to see above average warmth leading to record breaking hot temperatures in July, after already recording the state's warmest April to June period on record.

"I've been here in Austin 25 years, and I've never experienced what we're experiencing this summer," Peter Bay, the Austin Symphony's conductor and director, told ABC News in an interview.

The concert usually brings a crowd of about 500 people to the lawn outside of the symphony's concert hall on Sundays at 7:30 p.m., June through August. During the concerts, people bring picnic baskets and their dogs, while children run around.

But musicians can't play shows if temperatures reach 95 degrees or more. In the case of the Sunday shows that the symphony had to cancel this year, temperatures during the day were in the low 100s, and were well over 95 degrees by concert time, according to Bay.

Bay said the heat could cause damage to the instruments and would make it very difficult to play in tune.

PHOTO: The Austin Symphony Orchestra (ASO) Brass Quintet performs on the Long Center Terrace, June 5, 2022, in Austin, Texas.
The Austin Symphony Orchestra (ASO) Brass Quintet performs on the Long Center Terrace, June 5, 2022, in Austin, Texas.
Austin Symphony Orchestra

"For example, [in] the stringed instruments, which are all wood, and the various pieces of the stringed instruments are held together by glue, and some varnish, the glue could come undone, which would ruin some very, very valuable instruments," Bay said.

The wood in a lot of the clarinets and bassoons could also crack and the heat would also affect brass instruments, making them play on the sharp side, Bay said.

"It's also very, very difficult to play in tune under such intense conditions. So it's not healthy for the people, and it's not healthy for the instruments to be outside in the kind of heat we've been having," Bay added.

June was ranked fifth warmest on record for Texas as a whole – while several locations across the state ranked June as the hottest month ever, including San Antonio.

San Antonio hit their hottest July temperature earlier this week hitting 107 degrees – tying with the record that was set just two years ago in 2020. So far in the month of July, San Antonio has hit 100 degrees every single day and is on track to rank second for most consecutive 100 degree days on record if it hits 100 on Thursday. The current record is 21 days.

Austin has hit 105 degrees for the fifth straight day, tying for third longest 100-day streak.

The symphony's CEO, David Pratt, told ABC News in past years, only one or two shows would be canceled because of the heat, making this year "usual." Pratt said the symphony monitors the weather and makes decisions on whether they will cancel shows on Saturday or Sunday morning.

"We certainly would never expect our musicians to have to perform in that kind of weather. And certainly, too, when you've got an excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service, that's also keeping our patrons safe, as well," Pratt said.

At a previous job, Pratt said he has seen parts of a violin melt off in extreme heat.

Bay said he is worried about what this year's weather will mean for the future.

"It's hard to know how it's going to be next year, we'll probably have to find a different venue or not do outdoor concerts in the summer anymore if this particular pattern continues," Bay said.

-ABC's Melissa Griffin contributed to this report

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