The uninvited guest – COVID-19 – that refuses to leave the party continues to darken summer plans and summer traditions everywhere.
Durango, of course, is not void of this unwanted guest’s presence, as said presence has doubled-dipped chips into the queso, spilled red wine on the white couch, told numerous inappropriate jokes and clogged the toilet. It’s 2 a.m., all the guests have split and this fool isn’t getting the hint that their company isn’t wanted anymore. While restrictions are being lifted because of the aforementioned uninvited guest, businesses and venues continue to remain cautious, including the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, which has altered its free summer concert series to protect the health of everyone involved.
Now in its 11th year, normally these shows happen in Buckley Park in downtown Durango each Thursday from late June into late July. Billed for 2020 as “Concert Hall at The Park In Your Own Backyard,” the show will go on, but from the performers’ personal studios or empty venues, viewed via the Concert Hall’s website, social media pages or YouTube.
“It’s been a weird year. Since the middle of March, we’ve canceled 25 or 30 events. Because of cancellations, artists have lost a lot of their touring income and a lot of opportunities to get out there and put their art in front of other people,” said Community Concert Hall Director Charles Leslie. “It’s kind of circular: It hits one sector of this business we’re in, and then it affects the next person down the line, then the next person. So the online solution is an answer. It’s one way for us to get artists in front of people, for all of us who love music and love live performance, to get out and see some artists that we may not have seen before, so that’s good as well.”
The series for 2020 is approaching its third week, with remaining artists including Chicago’s Bassel & The Supernaturals performing July 9; roots/folkie Alice Wallace performing July 16; and local jazz musicians performing with the Southwest Civic Jazz Orchestra on July 23. July 2’s show will feature a blues band made up of members of the Southwest Civic Winds Ensemble.
Watching shows from your home, instead of with a few hundred of your good friends on a summer evening in a park in downtown Durango isn’t a perfect concert experience, but at this point, three months into this pandemic, what is perfect? The series could have been scrapped altogether, however, keeping the series going was a way for the Concert Hall to still offer performance for the community while keeping a commitment to the artists, something that should strengthen the connection between venue and performer for future shows, once this uninvited guest that refuses to leave finally finds the door.
“Our relationships with these artists is strong. They were just grateful that we just didn’t bag it and say, ‘We’re not going to do anything’ because that’s kind of what happened in mid-March,” Leslie said. “A lot of venues like ours said, ‘We don’t know what to do, so we’re just going to stop.’ The restrictions were so tight we didn’t know how to respond to that necessarily, but we’re getting our feet under us and trying to get a little stronger sense of how we can move forward, and part of moving forward is looking around at the resources we have. One of the cool things around Durango is we have a lot of music fans, and we have a lot of artists who want to play and share what they’re doing. And we’ve got Fort Lewis College that wants to help and wants to make sure that we’re still staying connected to our community and to the arts.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.