COVID is changing landscapes for music and arts scenes in Savannah
In a recent chronicleI spoke about positive changes for the local restaurant scene during the pandemic, including the expansion of outdoor dining and the legalization of packaged alcohol sales.
There could be similar long-term benefits for local music and art scenes, but the jury is still out.
First, the good news.
Some musicians, venues, and organizations have implemented high-quality streaming over the past year or so. Interest in live broadcasts has waned over time and live broadcasts have become more common, but streaming options have added new tools to the toolbox.
Take a look at the great videos produced by the Savannah Jazz Festival in collaboration with WSAV or the many beautiful performances broadcast with impressive video and sound by Michael Gaster & Associates in the Quarantine Concerts series.
Individual groups and musicians also generated income, stayed closer to longtime supporters, and cultivated new audiences through web performances. Live streaming may not capture the excitement, energy and intimacy of the shows in person, but the technology will only get better.
The pandemic has also raised the profile of several outdoor venues, such as the Soundgarden in Coach’s Corner, the Collins Quarter in Forsyth and Service Brewing.
The Savannah Philharmonic has launched the free Phil the Squares with Song series, which continues at 3 p.m. Saturday in Chippewa Square. The concert will be feature the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus performing songs from every decade since 1920.
The dynamics of the pandemic may also have revealed the existing demand for previous shows. The Savannah music scene’s penchant for late shows scored high on the cool meter but not so high on the practical meter.
The local theater scene has struggled over the past year, but there was also good news. Savannah Repertory Theater has successfully used live streaming and is currently fundraising for an exciting new space on Broughton Street. Dovetail Productions recently enjoyed great success with the outdoor performance of Horton Foote’s “A Coffin in Egypt” in Vernonburg. I will probably have more to say about this show in a future column.
Despite the various silver linings, I can’t help but think about the losses and the missed opportunities.
Two irreplaceable places – Le Bayou Café and The Jinx – closed in 2020.
Had some restrictions on outdoor events been relaxed earlier, we might have seen more ambitious programming. The Forsyth Park stage would have been ideal for concerts or other performances. Squares, parks and even streets could have been used for a variety of small events.
The Starland mural project brought new public art to the Bull Street hallway, but the pandemic hasn’t sparked major new initiatives to promote public art.
Of course, the past year has been tough, but it seems all the more reason to give people new avenues to enjoy the arts and come together creatively.
Of course, these needs will remain even after the pandemic is over, so maybe we can still apply some of the lessons learned over the past year.
Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News. He can be contacted via [email protected] and @billdawers on Twitter.