Coming up on the second summer since the pandemic started, organizers of local outdoor concert series say things have been touch and go.
The future of Albany’s Alive at Five and Schenectady’s Harbor Jam, both of which tend to bring in thousands of people, is still uncertain and organizers say they’re in a holding pattern.
At this point, New York State mandates that arts venues may host up to 200 people at outdoor concerts, though if attendees all prove that they’ve recently tested negative for COVID-19, capacity can go up to 500. Social distancing and masks are also required.
With these restrictions in mind, organizers of more intimate concert series have decided to press on. Jazz on Jay will kick off on July 8 and run every Thursday through at least August, and the lineup will be announced later this year.
Freedom Park plans
In Scotia, Freedom Park’s concert series is also a go for this summer, according to Cathy Gatta, president of the Freedom Park Foundation.
“When it came out with the new guidelines that we can have 200 [people] socially distanced, we thought ‘Let’s just do it.’ So we’re going to have a season. It’s going to be more intimate than we usually have it,” Gatta said.
Last year, the series went virtual, with organizers presenting streamed concerts throughout the summer in a series they dubbed “Quarantune.”
“The bands were so appreciative just to get to play together. It was so great to see. [Our series] was the only time that they got together for the whole summer,” Gatta said.
This season, they plan to section off 10-feet spaces using line markers. Each will be six feet apart and people in the same family or pod can be in one of the 10-foot spaces. Volunteers will be posted on either side of the entrance and will have clickers to keep track of how many people are entering to cap it off at 200.
While they have not announced the full schedule, Gatta said they’re planning to bring in more intimate concerts and performances. In previous years, bands like Skeeter Creek or The Refrigerators have brought in around 1,500, which is well over the limited capacity. They hope to perhaps bring a bigger band back toward the end of their season, should guidelines loosen.
Their season will most likely include a jazz concert, a performance by the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company and other local groups. Organizers plan to announce the season schedule by Memorial Day.
“The main challenge is not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Gatta said.
If the guidelines do loosen up over the summer, she hopes that community members will have patience because it’s difficult to change plans on a dime.
Freedom Park is one of few outdoor concert series that has a definitive answer on whether or not the show will go on this summer, and part of the reason they’ll be able to have a season is that the series focuses on local performers.
Music Haven obstacles
Schenectady’s Music Haven concert series is known for presenting national and international musicians, many of which are not touring at this time because of the pandemic. Another issue with presenting the series is that it takes months to fund-raise for, curate and market/advertise, said organizer Mona Golub.
The Music Haven concert series is also volunteer-run, so the prospect of monitoring vaccination/testing statuses, as well as mask-wearing and social distancing, is daunting, Golub added.
“That said, I am exploring a few pop-up concert opportunities for late summer into fall, should the opportunity present itself,” Golub said. “And I am focused on picking up right where we left off — on the crest of our spectacular 30th anniversary season — in 2022!”