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How Baltimore arts groups are creatively serving their audiences during the coronavirus pandemic

Classical pianist Lura Johnson will stream free concerts from her Baltimore home during the coronavirus epidemic.
Classical pianist Lura Johnson will stream free concerts from her Baltimore home during the coronavirus epidemic. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Perhaps never before has that old bromide, “the play must go on,” been more critical to Baltimore than when the city has ground to a virtual standstill as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local arts groups are coming up with creative ways to serve even homebound audiences, from live-streaming concerts and performances to providing virtual access to digital tours of art collections.

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Courtesy of the Creative Alliance, you can even hire a local musicians to stand on the sidewalk outside your home and serenade you and your family, troubadour-style.

“Culture groups and artists are all about community and bringing people together,” said Jeannie L Howe, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s executive director.

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”The impact of social distancing is something they feel acutely. Art has a unique way of bridging that gap.”

Below is a (of necessity partial and incomplete) list of local arts events — some free, and others for a fee — you can still enjoy while still observing social distance. The information was gleaned from the GBCA’s Culture Fly calendar, the Maryland State Arts Council and other local groups.

An die Musik Live: The Mount Vernon hotspot for classical and jazz music is offering a Quarantine Concert series costing $5 per “show.” Offerings on March 28 included a concert of by Katherine Needleman on the oboe and pianist Hanchen Lee, and a jazz guitar duo performed by Michael Joseph Harris and Sami Arefin. andiemusiklive.com.

Baltimore Center Stage: Baltimore Center Stage will live stream performances of its next mainstage production, Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ “Where We Stand” during the show’s April 2-26 run. The theater also will be offering BCS Camp at Home for young thespians. centerstage.org.

Baltimore Choral Arts Society: Join the Baltimore Choral Arts Society live every Thursday at 5 p.m. for a free new digital concert mini-series, “Music with the Maestro.”. baltimorechoralarts.org.

Baltimore Improv Group: Bring in the clowns. “Our passion and commitment to improv comedy compels us to continue to perform online,” the group writes on its web page. Live improve comedy shows will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 p.m. Fridays and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. (Note that performances might start five to ten minutes late.) bigimprov.org.

Baltimore Museum of Art: There are more ways than ever to get an online art fix. In addition to artworks that are available digitally, the museum has launched a “2020 Vision” microsite exploring female artists. BMA Go Mobile provides audio and video detail about selected objects. YouTube has videos of artists talking about their own and other artworks in the collection. In addition, Spotify playlists curated by artists and staff can be found here. artbma.org.

Baltimore Soundstage: The organization has postponed some concerts but is livestreaming others. Tune in via Facebook or Twitch. baltimoresoundstage.com

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Miss the BSO? Audience members are invited to ”attend” a concert streamed from the musicians’ homes. A new section of the symphony’s website contains archived performances for music lovers to enjoy, newly-released BSO podcasts and messages from music director Marin Alsop and guest artists. “As all of us face incredible challenges associated with the novel coronavirus, the BSO and our musicians will share great music in new and imaginative ways,” BSO president and CEO Peter Kjome wrote in an email. bsomusic.org.

Creative Alliance: For a fee ranging between $50 and $150, a local musician will perform a 10-to 15-minute mini-concert on the sidewalk outside your house as part of the “Sidewalk Serenades” series. There’s also a family-friendly “drag storytime” at 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays (accessible via Facebook) in which children’s stories featuring messages of inclusivity and acceptance are narrated by some of Baltimore’s favorite drag personas. creativealliance.org.

Enoch Pratt Free Library: “A Story Anytime” provides stories around the clock read over the phone to your child in English or Spanish. Call 410-396-8396. prattlibrary.org.

FazaFam Playlists: Families can move, groove and play games while swaying along with dozens of videos posted on the website’s YouTube and Facebook pages. danceandbmore.com.

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LiveArts Maryland: The Annapolis-based group is offering “QuaranTiny Concerts,” a series of quick informal concerts recorded in one or two takes. By design, these concerts will be imperfect, though they aim to capture some of the spontaneity and joy of impromptu studio recordings. For details, visit bachplusmd.org.

Lura Johnson: The classical pianist will present “We Shall Overcome: An Online Concert Series“ every Wednesday night at around 8 p.m. from her Baltimore studio. The concerts can be accessed from her Facebook page. “I’m not sure when my public concert life will go back to normal,” she writes on her Facebook page, “but until it does, I’d like to be with you, playing music that I love and hopefully bringing you solace, pleasure, serenity, and inspiration.”

Pandemic Players: A group of Baltimore theater artists are banding together to live-stream weekly staged readings of plays to the public via Facebook while the theaters are closed. Actors perform from their individual homes over Zoom, and the various feeds are melded together by video engineers. The staged readings are free, but the performers solicit donations on behalf of a different local theater each week.

The Parkway Theatre: The theater is partnering with independent distributors to sell tickets for online movie screenings. Virtual tickets cost $12; early offerings include the Brazilian western “Bacurau” and the indie comedy “St. Francis.” mdfilmfest.com.

Peabody Institute: Come together each Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a Peabody Watch Party and enjoy a previously recorded performance. The March 27 concert featured the Peabody Symphony Orchestra with Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and Peabody Singers under the baton of conductor Edward Polochick performing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.

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The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture: “Be Here Baltimore” is an archive of more than 1,500 Baltimore stories. Visitors can learn about the lives of their fellow Baltimoreans, record their own sagas, take a virtual tour of the nation’s oldest museum building (opened in 1814) or listen to the “It’s More Than History” lecture series. pealecenter.org.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture: Browse through 6,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection, including African artifacts and documents pertaining to slavery. Visitors also can listen to excerpts of jazz recordings. Lewismuseum.org.

Single Carrot Theatre: You can’t get much more intimate than this. Site-specific performances of the troupe’s next show, “We Broke Up” will take place inside your home April 17-26. Audience members can access the livestream of DJ Hills’ play via a private YouTube link sent with the ticket confirmation. For ticket details, check the website in late March or early April. singlecarrot.com.

Virtual Museum Tours: Free virtual tours of some of the city’s most beloved museums are being offered daily. They include The Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum, The National Aquarium, The B&O Railroad Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry and Visualizing Early Baltimore, a tour that returns visitors to Charm City circa 1815. baltimoreculture.org.

Walters Art Museum: Art lovers can browse high-resolution images of much of the museum’s 36,000-object collection. They can page through the 12th century St. Francis Missal; tour Hackerman House (the recently renovated 19th century mansion housing part of the collection) and eavesdrop on director Julia Marciari-Alexander discussing connections between current events and seven millenia of art. thewalters.org.

WTMD, 89.7 FM: WTMD is debuting Cabin Fever Concerts, a new video series chronicling how Baltimore and national musicians are handling these stressful times. We’ll learn what foods they’re stockpiling, what they’re drinking (coffee? cocktails?) to help get through it all, and each musician will play a live-streamed performance from their home. The lineup includes Cris Jacobs, Mary Prankster, Lauren Ruth Ward, Frank Solivan and others. wtmd.org

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