The NAC Orchestra rehearsed on Thursday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)

The National Arts Centre Orchestra held its first full rehearsal Thursday since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. 

Fifty orchestra members physically distanced in the NAC's Southem Hall to rehearse "Classical Symphony" by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. 

The musicians having to adjust to new safety measures; including temperature checks, physically distancing, and no mingling before or after practise. Rehearsal is also shorter to keep exposure low. 

For oboist Anna Petersen. it means adjusting to playing her instrument with a mask. 

Petersen says, "Because I play the obo, we use our mouths obliviously, so we take it off to play, so we are doing a lot of on and off again."

Petersen has also added extra safety measures to her instrument. She says, "We have what we call bell cover. Instead of the air just flowing out, I put a little sock, or sheer nylon at the end of my obo."

Cellist Rachel Mercer says it will take time to get used to the new measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"You try not to think about it and just concentrate on the music... but every now and again, you remember. But we will get used to it, like everything," said Mercer.

Yosuke Kawasaki currently serves as Concertmaster, and says wearing a mask and playing so far away from other musicians is definitely a career first. He says there is an adjustment to the different sound.

"When we play above a certain dynamic, when we play louder, I do find that I only hear myself at times, there are other sounds, but mine is louder. I don't want to be too timid or too defensive," said Kawasaki.

Starting this month, the orchestra will be performing live virtual performances for people to watch for free online. They will be streamed from the NAC’s website. The first will take place on Oct. 17. 

"It will be the first time this orchestra has every streamed live. So this is new for us," says Arna Einarsdóttir, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra.

"This is a national treasure, so that’s why it means so much to be able to bring them all together and make music together."

It still isn’t clear when audiences will be able to return to their seats at the NAC. 

Einarsdóttir says, "As soon as it is safe to do so, we will, because that is what we want to do, share our music with the audience."