On Stage: Venues reopen briefly, but…close again, due to COVID-19

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

COVID-19 has almost completely wiped out live music and theater performances.

There were glimmers of hope for live shows recently. Some venues actually hosted indoor performances in late July but the era of indoor live shows 2020 has drawn to a close.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has announced statewide mitigation efforts as COVID-19 cases surge in Pennsylvania.

Some of the new mitigation efforts are bars and restaurants that allow indoor dining will only be able to seat up to 25% of their capacity; alcohol only can be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal; and indoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people (outdoor gatherings remain at a maximum of 250 people).

Some venues tried to get indoor live events to work.

Jamey’s House of Music in Lansdowne re-opened on July 17 with a concert by blues ace Toby Walker.

This message was featured in an email about the July 17 show that was sent two weeks ago –

“Jamey’s features restaurant style seating in a professionally designed listening room, with stage-front and stage-side tables, and additional seating at the bar with video monitors for concert viewing. Jamey’s boasts a full high-end back-line with an amazing sound system and has been called “a music lover’s dream.” It is an unparalleled treat for performers and guests.

“We follow CDC and PA guidelines for your health and safety, requiring masks to enter the venue, social distancing, and extensive disinfection measures above and beyond what is mandated so you can enjoy your visit confidently in comfort.”

The club had resumed its traditional “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” a week earlier with mixed results.

This message was posted on the venue’s website –

“Well, we tried it. We reopened for our Sunday Blues Brunch, with precautions in place. While it was not terrible, it did not pass muster for the safety of our guests, artists and staff. For the most part, people tried to observe precautions, but being naturally socially gregarious creatures (who have been cooped up for too long already), it was just too much to remember for several people… and that’s all it takes to start a cluster.

“Folks moving around without their masks, forgetting social distancing, non-use of hand sanitizer, and leaving the toilet lid up when flushing. We’re going to shut down the Thursday and Sunday jams again for a few more weeks to keep an eye on things, and hopefully be able to try again by August. We’ll keep the show set for this Friday the 17th and work on getting it right.”

This week, Jamey’s posted this message on its website:

“We got to reopen for one day! The governor of PA has placed new restrictions on restaurants and bars that mean we are unable to remain open. We’ve canceled all of our August shows, and will play it by ear for September.”

One of the first entertainment venues in the area to re-open with live indoor performances in front of live indoor audiences was the Candlelight Dinner Theatre in Arden, Delaware.

The theatre’s website posted this message:

“Welcome back to The Candlelight Theatre. We have been busy getting our theater ready for your return. Our shows will be exciting and memorable just as they always have been, but the experience will be a little different. We have taken important steps to keep you safe such as no more waiting in the lobby for the doors to open.

“We will take everyone’s temperature with a contactless thermometer when you enter the building. This will help ensure others are safe. 100.5 or over will not be admitted and credit will be given for a future performance. We will seat approximately 40% of our capacity.

“Masks are required entering and walking about the theater. At your table, masks are optional, but we do encourage that masks be worn during the show. Servers and staff will all wear a mask and gloves. Our staff will be seen cleaning doorknobs, hand- rails, and public areas.

“The theater has been professionally sanitized and disinfected. We have reviewed kitchen procedures, installed plexiglass on the bar and Box Office, and made changes backstage to keep the actors safe when they are not on stage.”

Unfortunately, after two Comedy Club performances on July 9 and 10, the staff at Candlelight realized that this was not enough.

The hit musical, “The Last Five Years,” was scheduled to be presented by the Candlelight Dinner Theatre from the July 24 through August 30. It has been cancelled.

“We’ve cancelled this show,” said Candlelight office manager Betsy Conner. “Actually, we’ve cancelled all shows until next year because of health safety concerns.

“Everything went all right with the Comedy Club shows but we’ve since been made aware of more safety concerns. ‘The Last Five Years’ is a musical and that presents a different situation. Medical test results show that singing is more dangerous than speaking.”

An epidemiologic investigation of choir-related spread and experimental data on the lifetime of respiratory particles produced by speech indicate that minimal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 can cause disease.

Strong evidence exists showing that large droplets, such as those in a cough or sneeze, as well as very small droplets in the air, such as those produced when singing or speaking (especially when speaking loudly or yelling as in coaches giving directions to athletes or camp staff giving directions to other staff or children), spread the disease.

In fact, these very small airborne particles can travel up to 13 feet away from the infected person. Additionally, they can stay suspended in the air for a long period of time and potentially infect someone who breathes in that air, even up to three-hours later. The smallest airborne droplets may be more of a concern than scientists previously recognized.

Aerosol particles released when people sing may have led the coronavirus to spread to 45 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale in the state of Washington. Some choir members met for practice on March 3 and 10, 2020, before Washington state issued a stay-at-home order, and before Skagit County had any known COVID-19 cases. Choir members reportedly did not keep a six-foot distance from each other at all times.

In singing loudly infected choir members may have propelled the virus into each other’s safety zones. Sadly, two choir members died. The spread of droplets increases with volume. Ordinary speech aerosolizes significant amounts of respiratory particles and speaking emits more aerosol particles than breathing.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports established that the louder one speaks the more aerosol particles are produced. It has long been known that normal speech also yields large quantities of particles that are too small to see with the human eye, but are large enough to carry a variety of communicable respiratory pathogens. The rate of particle emission during normal human speech increases with the volume/loudness (amplitude) of speaking/yelling/singing, ranging from approximately 1 to 50 particles per second.

“We just felt it would be better if we didn’t take any chances with the health of our staff and our patrons,” said Conner. “We definitely didn’t want to shut down, but we felt that we didn’t really have another choice.”

Candlelight will have a special attraction on July 27.

On Monday evening, “Candlelight Quizzo,” an outdoor event, will be held starting at 6 p.m. behind the Candlelight in the “Barnyard” (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware,www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org.)

Tickets for “Candlelight Quizzo,” which is hosted by Dan Healy, are $5 per person. Sweet and savory treats by Wildwich will be available for purchase and there will be a cash bar.

The event will be cancelled if it rains.

Live music can still be enjoyed via drive-in concerts. Fortunately, there are two drive-in concert programs in Chester County – People’s Light and SALT — and one by The Grand in nearby Wilmington, Delaware.

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is has this message on its website:

“In March 2020, we announced the cancellation of the remainder of our 2019/2020 Season, which includes Shakespeare in LoveHold These TruthsBayard Rustin: Inside AshlandMary Jane, and Songs for Nobodies. If you have been affected by these cancellations and have not yet been in touch with us, please contact the Box Office at 610.644.3500 or tickets@peopleslight.org. The People’s Light Box Office and administrative offices are closed, though our staff is working remotely Monday through Friday.

No staged productions are currently running, and our indoor spaces are closed to the public. However, tickets to two socially-distanced outdoor offerings are now available to purchase. As we continue to monitor confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, we are constantly evaluating the safety of our on-campus programming and will cancel events if necessary.

We are working in partnership with East Whiteland Township to offer a Drive-In Concert Series, following current PA regulations for outdoor events. These drive-in concerts, held in our back parking lot, are designed for small groups within the same “social bubble” to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment together. Tickets are limited and social distancing is enforced.

Folk Tales in the Garden” is a socially distanced, outdoor edu-tainment offering for families with young children running Wednesday through Saturday at 10am. Tickets are extremely limited; only eight reservations are available per event and social distancing will be enforced. We have protocols in place for disinfecting spaces, surfaces, and equipment used by guests, artists, and staff. Our artists have separate dressing rooms and restrooms, do not share hand props, and maintain a 6-foot distance from each other and our guests.”

The concerts are being staged in conjunction with Point Entertainment which is known for its shows at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville and the Ardmore Music Hall as well as at other key venues around the Delaware Valley.

Point Entertainment publicist and talent booker Jesse Lundy assessed the live concert situation.

“There are not going to be any in-person concerts other than drive-in shows happening anywhere around in 2020,” said Lundy.

The People’s Light Drive-In Concert Series will have a show on July 25 featuring Jeffrey Gaines and Valentina Sounds followed by a show on August 1 by The John Byrne Band.

Jeffrey Gaines

Jeffrey Gaines has long been heralded for his soul-searching lyrics and his powerful live performances. With only his voice and a guitar for accompaniment, Gaines has earned a reputation as a captivating performer, entertaining audiences everywhere he goes.

Throughout his career, Gaines has built a rapport with his fans unlike any other in popular music today. He goes as far as letting his fans influence the songs he performs each night. He released the album “Alright” (Omnivore) in 2018. It’s his first studio recording with new original material in 16 years and it was received enthusiastically by his fans. The album was produced by Chris Price and Gaines was backed by members of Elvis Costello’s band.

Video link for Jeffery Gaines — https://youtu.be/aQW93_qpjjo.

Performing and recording as Valentina Sounds, Valentina Raffaelli will be songs from her debut album, “Bring on the Fire.”

“Bring on the Fire” is the story about the end of a long-term relationship told in a relatable, true-to-life manner. The songs portray the array of emotions — hope, sarcasm, determination, compassion, anger and sadness — felt during a trying time while still living life in the real day-to-day world.

It doesn’t seem like a musical menu for star-crossed lovers.

Raffaelli, the former singer in Sunshine Superman and Sparkle Pony, creates music that is a fusion of catchy melodies and pop tunes, perfectly blended with a background in jazz vocals and a love for composition.

“I have been in the United States for 11 years in January,” said Raffaelli. “Putting a band together was easy. The first band was Sunshine Superman back in 2017. Then, I was in a band called Sparkle Pony with my ex-husband. It was a folk/bluegrass/Americana band that ended in January 2019.”

All the while, Raffaelli was writing songs and preparing for what came next.

“I started writing an album without knowing it,” said Raffaelli, a native of Forte dei Marni.

Forte dei Marmi is a seaside town in the northern part of Tuscany that is a major vacation destination for Italy’s upper class. In Italian, “Forte dei Marmi” means “Fort of the Marbles.” The town takes its name from the fortress that rises in the middle of the main square.

“I knew I wanted to make a full album,” said Raffaelli. “Then things started deteriorating. I moved out and began living on my own in January 2019. The biggest chunk of songs was written between December 2018 and May 2019 and then I got into the recording studio in June.”

Video link for Valentina Sounds — https://youtu.be/SyCNi4ZRUDo.

“This is the third show in the series and the first two were sold out in advance,” said Lundy. “There will be an announcement Monday about the other upcoming shows.

“We book the shows and then they are produced by DBS Audio. They have an awesome team over there. We’ve worked with them before with shows at the Colonial Theater and the Eagleview Town Series in Exton.”

Here are the ground rules issued by People’s Light:

These drive-in concerts are designed for small groups within the same “social bubble” to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment together. Tickets are limited and social distancing is enforced.  Each vehicle is limited to 5 people or less and assigned a parking spot and adjacent “Home Space” for setting up lawn chairs. We require concert attendees to remain in their designated area as much as possible and avoid mingling with other parties.

Face masks are required on our campus and may only be removed inside a vehicle or Home Space. People’s Light staff will be masked at all times and maintain a 6-foot distance from each other and our guests. We have protocols in place for disinfecting spaces, surfaces, and equipment used by musicians and staff.

We are working in partnership with East Whiteland Township and following current PA regulations for outdoor events. As we continue to monitor confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, we are constantly evaluating the safety of our on-campus programming and will cancel events if necessary.

This socially distanced drive-in concert will take place in the back parking lot of the People’s Light campus at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA. The concert will last 75 to 90 minutes in total, including both sets. Valentina Sounds will open, followed by Jeffrey Gaines. It is our goal to start and end on time. The musicians will perform on a raised stage at the back of the lot.

Tickets are $75 per car and limited to 5 passengers per car (not including children under 12). There are no physical tickets for these events. Attendees will receive a confirmation email receipt immediately following purchase, as well as a reminder email with more details a few days before a concert. The rain date for this event is Sunday, July 26.

Please plan to arrive between 5:30 and 6pm so we can get everyone parked in time for the 6:30pm concert.

A masked attendant will greet you at a 6-foot distance when you arrive. Please be prepared to wear a mask and provide your name so we can check your ticket status. Your car will be assigned a number, which will be adhered to your back windshield by the attendant. This is to assist in food delivery for those who pre-ordered from our on-site restaurant and is also a helpful safety measure.

Parking attendants will guide you to a parking space. Cars will be parked based on the size of the vehicle. Lower cars in front, bigger vehicles in the back. You will not be allowed to move your vehicle once you’ve parked. Vehicles that don’t fit in a parking space (such as campers or oversized trucks) will not be allowed entry. Your view of the stage will be dependent on your location and the number of large vehicles in the lot, so we encourage you to bring your smallest vehicle!

Every vehicle will be assigned a “Home Space”, an adjacent parking spot where you can set up lawn chairs. This space will be on the DRIVER’S SIDE of your vehicle, assuming you parked facing the stage. This is not a space intended for mingling with those outside your party. Per current PA regulations, you need to either be in your vehicle or immediately adjacent to it. No walking around or visiting neighbors.

You can pre-order food and drinks from The Farmhouse at People’s Light (and yes, this includes alcoholic beverages!) Specific instructions will be emailed to concert ticket holders, along with a 10% discount code. Outside alcohol is prohibited.

Face masks are required on our campus and may only be removed in your car or Home Space. We ask that all concert attendees wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance when interacting with anyone outside your party. People’s Light staff will be masked at all times, and Farmhouse staff will be masked and gloved.

There will be one standard portable toilet, one ADA-compliant portable toilet, and one wash station located in the parking lot. We require face masks (and suggest gloves!) when walking to and using the facilities.

Please turn off your car when you park. We do not encourage people to sit in a car that is idling for more than ten minutes. (But don’t forget to turn your lights back on at the end of the night!)

Other dates for People’s Light Drive-In Concert Series shows are August 8, 14 and 21.

In partnership with Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Grounds, SALT Performing Arts (www.saltpa.com ) is presenting “SALT Beyond The Walls,” a Drive-In live concert style summer series with “Kids on Broadway.” Shows are scheduled for June 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. each night.

Guests are invited to pack a picnic and enjoy 16 amazing SALT performers singing songs from the 1930s-2010s.

The drive-in theatre works as follows:

Admission is $25/vehicle. Reservations must be made online prior to the performance at —  https://www.saltpa.com/beyondthewalls.

Admission to the fairgrounds will start an hour before the event start time.

Each vehicle should print out their ticket and place it visibly on the front dashboard/window.

Upon entering the fairgrounds, attendants will guide vehicles for parking around the newly constructed fairgrounds stage

Audio is provided via 90.7 FM radio transmission.

On-site concessions will be available for delivery to your vehicle.

Binoculars are encouraged.

Attendance will be limited to 70 vehicles.

The show will last approximately 90 minutes. There are no bathrooms at the Fairgrounds.

SALT performers for July 24 are Christian Giancaterino, Ty Thomas, Shane Roche, Cassie Gould, Katelyn Orkin, Charlotte Herninko, Rhiannon Babula, Grace Magee, Sophia Kogay, Lily Lane-Aharonian, Kiran Wisneski, Anna Grace Howell, Adriana Mikhailouski, Ella Diaz, Maria Alicea, and Allie Roberts.

SALT performers for July 25 are Addison Kunsch, Lorelei Miller, Molly Kent, Lulu Spinelli, Ellie Thompson, Dylan Loraw, Abby Leiboff, Chloe Kunsch, Emily Leiboff, Abbie Parker, Violet Tulig, Eloise McComas, Jack Dungan, Zane Zangwill, Adam Makke, and Nella Hilden.

The final “SALT Beyond the Walls” weekend will be “Songs from the Silver Screen” from August 14-16.

Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Grounds are located at 1326 Pottstown Pike in Glenmoore.

Video link for SALT — https://youtu.be/PaRcedOtwF8.

The Grand’s “Concert by Cars” show featuring the Fuzzaholics is scheduled for July 31.

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