WHITEHALL – Like a lot of things in 2020, the Free Summer Concert Series presented by the Arts Council of White Lake-Nuveen Center (ACWL-Nuveen) was put on pause due to COVID-19.
At the time there was a lot of uncertainty about the virus and what the best course of action was to take when it came to live events. In some ways there still is, but the ACWL-Nuveen is moving forward, and there are plans to bring back the Free Summer Concert Series in June.
Director Erin Peyer said at the time they weren’t sure if they should be having people meet in person. Back in 2020 they even thought about livestreaming performances from North Grove Brewers in Montague, her husband RJ Nordlund is a part-owner and the head brewer there.
However, the issue the ACWL-Nuveen was running into was the potential copyright issues it could create with the cover bands that were scheduled to perform that summer.
Another issue Peyer found herself running into was whether or not she felt comfortable trying to enforce a mask rule at any of their live shows.
“I would present what I was thinking, and usually people (concert committee and board) were in agreement that it just wasn’t safe to put on this concert series. And frankly, it came down to more of the fact of was I going to be able to enforce mask wearing to a crowd of 200 or 300 people?, said Peyer.
“Do I want to be responsible for the safety of those people? And it just wasn’t something I felt I could do. Now, it’s just a normal activity to wear a mask and social distance — it might not be as big an issue if we go ahead in 2021.
“But in 2020 it was still something new and people weren’t used to that kind of behavior.”
The Summer Concert Series is still very much in the planning stages, but Peyer said she has booked all the musicians that were originally scheduled to play in 2020. But ACWL-Nuveen is still in the process of re-writing contracts for the artists.
Typically, the concerts – which are performed on Tuesday nights – take place at the Rotary Bandshell located in Montague at the end of Water Street. But concerts have been performed in the past at the Montague High School auditorium when there has been rain or other inclement weather.
Prior to COVID-19 this arrangement with the high school wasn’t a problem, but with the potential risks caused by the virus, Peyer said the high school hasn’t made up their mind yet on whether they wish to host the concerts. There hasn’t been a definite answer given as of yet, and instead the ACWL-Nuveen is being told to wait as things develop further.
Peyer is understanding of the dilemma the High School is in, but she also wants the artists to get paid, which is why the ACWL-Nuveen is still working out the kinks in their contracts. There is the potential that artists who may have a performance cancelled due to bad weather would still get paid.
Ideally, Peyer said come this summer everyone or close to everyone will have received a vaccination and the Summer Concert Series can continue business as usual.
“I guess […] the optimist in me is hoping that by […] mid-June everybody will have a vaccine. I don’t know, but if that’s not the case something we discussed for the 2020 series before cancelling was to just limit the number of people that could attend,” said Peyer.
She said they might do this by having people reserve a spot at a show. Another thing being discussed is painting lines on the lawn to create designated areas groups of people have to stay within to maintain social distancing.
Food and drinks are also a concern. So, banning them from a performance might be considered as well.
But of course, Peyer said there is always the possibility that they will have to cancel the concert series again. But until they know for sure the ACWL-Nuveen will continue to work on planning their event.