The Performing Arts Series at West Shore Community College is evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with live-streaming and virtual components being added to the series.
The new season will get underway at 8 p.m. Sunday with a performance by Boston Brass, live-streamed from the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee. Due to restrictions on indoor gatherings, in-person attendance is at capacity, but people will still be able to live-stream the performance from their homes through a link on the college’s website at www.westshore.edu/performingarts.
Ted Malt, Performing Arts Series director and music professor at WSCC, said it’s taken months to plan this year’s programming around the restrictions that have stemmed from the virus. The plans were finalized earlier in the week, and live-streaming is playing a crucial role in keeping the series going.
The virtual programming is being dubbed the Living Room Series, because “with the click of a mouse,” or a remote, people from West Michigan and beyond will be able to view the events from their homes.
In a call to the Daily News on Friday, Malt encouraged the public to tune in for Sunday’s Boston Brass concert, adding that he’s thrilled to kick off the series with such a skilled group.
“These are some of the best people in the game in terms of brass players,” Malt said. “They’re a national act, and the members have had various symphony positions. We’re talking very, very high-end musicians.”
Audience seating at the Ramsdell is limited to 50 people, and those spots are filled, but the live-stream of the concert is free, and will be a major event, accessible to people throughout the country.
“It’s a national live-stream at 8 p.m. Sunday, (and it’s) going out to multiple states and multiple presenters,” Malt said. “West Shore Community College is the sole presenter of the event, so we’re pretty proud of that.”
Next up in the Living Room Series is guitarist Frank Vignola on Oct. 29; Jim Alfredson and Organissimo on Nov. 6; country and bluegrass mandolinist Sierra Hull on Nov. 13; Mason County native Chloe Kimes on Dec. 5; and the Fred Knapp Quartet on Dec. 12.
WSCC stated in a press release that the college’s audio/visual team is working with each artist to produce a one-hour performance video tailored especially for West Shore audiences.
Some face-to-face concerts are on the schedule as well, though they’re subject to change based on the status of COVID-19. Those concerts include performances by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper and the Accidentals.
Tickets for face-to-face events will go on sale after Jan. 1, 2021. A formal release date has not yet been determined.
Malt said even when the series returns to its traditional format, some of the features of the Living Room Series will remain.
“When we go back to face-to-face, there will definitely still be a virtual component,” he said.
The addition of the video and live-streaming will allow easy access to performances by the college’s 80-member community choir, its 100-member wind symphony and the WSCC theater troupe.
“When you watch our virtual choir, you’ll see multiple frames on your computer screen of all the people singing or playing in concert,” Malt stated in a release.
Though it’s been somewhat challenging logistically, Malt said the Living Room Series is a way to continue to provide resources and maintain relationships with community partners like the Ramsdell. He said Tom Kirke of the Hart Community Performing Arts Series and Andy Skinner, executive director of LACA, have played a pivotal role in spreading the word about the events.
It’s a way “to keep things moving forward,” during an otherwise uncertain period, according to Malt.
“This is a representation of many people working toward new initiatives since the beginning of the pandemic. It wouldn’t be possible without hard work, involvement and support from the college and our membership,” Malt said. “I’m proud that we’ve taken the steps to be able to do what we’re doing now… I’m very thankful for the people who have helped — our production team, the college — because if we didn’t have the support from the college, we’d be dark. We’d have a ghost light.”