The Return of Live Music

Live music is officially back for the summer, and recent updates to the CDC guidelines will help us move even closer to a pre-pandemic concert experience – with the caveat that “things may have changed by the time you read this.” With some venues shifting to outdoor performances and others reducing capacities to safer levels, here’s what the 2021 summer season will look like at a handful of venues as they continue to navigate  evolving social-distancing and COVID-19 precautions.

It’s business as usual for the Garage at Husby’s in Sister Bay. Being an outside venue has meant little disruption in the regular musical programming. 

“We used to do live music every night,” said James Larsen, co-owner and general manager, “so I’d say we are easing back into it by doing just Thursday, Friday and Saturday this summer for the most part.”

The Peninsula Music Festival canceled its Symphony Series – a longtime musical tradition – but in its place will be a three-concert chamber-music series at Egg Harbor’s Kress Pavilion featuring members of the Festival Orchestra.

The hour-long string and piano concerts will be presented Aug. 5, 12 and 19 at 7:30 pm.

Christoph Ptack, executive director of the Peninsula Music Festival, said, “Masking will be optional; and seating will be socially distanced, allowing for 75 patrons at each event.”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra returns to Door Community Auditorium December 11. Photo by Len Villano

Door County Auditorium upgraded its HVAC system, and filters were upgraded from Merv 7 to 13 in the fall of 2020 to help with ventilation. Precautions this season include mailing tickets to reduce face-to-face interactions, offering a full refund to any patron who is not feeling well or feels uncomfortable attending, making playbills and programs available electronically rather than in print, and reducing audience size.

“Barring a CDC or Wisconsin Department of Health guideline change,” said Cari Lewis, DCA’s executive director, “from June 22 through Aug. 7, ticketing capacity will be restricted to 25%, or 190 seats. Beginning Aug. 8, we plan to increase our capacity to 60%, or 456 seats, as some shows are planned at that point in the summer that would only break even at about 90% capacity.

“For the foreseeable future, we intend to enforce a mask policy for everyone on-site over the age of five, including patrons, staff, volunteers, crew, caterers and performing artists, except when removed as required for performance.” Lewis added that these rules may be relaxed later.

A Tale of Two will perform throughout Door County July 16 – 18. Photo submitted.

The Birch Creek Music Performance Center plans to present nearly 30 live outdoor concerts in front of the Dutton Concert Barn. Opening night on June 17 and concerts are by invitation, or free to the public if they supply their own lawn chair and call to reserve a space. 

“Normally, concerts take place inside the barn and can accommodate over 300 concertgoers, with the musicians performing on the Stage of Stars,” said Emily Maher, Birch Creek’s marketing manager. “This will be the first – and we hope only – time when all Birch Creek concerts will be performed outside. The audience will be seated on benches around the stage, as well as on their own lawn chairs as an option.” 

Concerts will begin at 7 pm, with pre-concert student music beginning at 6:30 pm. All visitors will be required to wear a mask except when seated outside.

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