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St. Louis Church in Clarksville launching concert series in person and online

Colleen Daly Eberhardt is the artistic director for St. Louis Church Concert Series and the featured soloist for the opening concert on Sunday.
Colleen Daly Eberhardt is the artistic director for St. Louis Church Concert Series and the featured soloist for the opening concert on Sunday. (Little SunPhotography / HANDOUT)

As the new artistic director of the Concert Series at St. Louis Church in Clarksville, Colleen Daly Eberhardt had to plan a concert series during a pandemic.

Normally featuring six or more concerts, Eberhardt limited it to four. The question was: Would the concerts be live or virtual?

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“We entertained every option,” Eberhardt said. “It is a delicate balancing act.”

As the number of COVID-19 cases came down and Howard County moved into Phase Three of reopening, Eberhardt made her decision.

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“We are very, very thankful to offer the concert in-person and virtual,” Eberhardt said of “Bells are Ringing,” scheduled for Sunday, the first concert in a four-concert series, of which she will be the featured performer along with composer/pianist Gabriel Ruiz-Bernal.

“Before I hire anyone, I should make sure it is safe,” said Eberhardt, a soprano. “We are taking things into consideration.”

For the concert, Eberhardt will be performing “The Bells," a piece composed by Ruiz-Bernal and based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe.

Singing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for holiday celebrations, should be avoided, along with “chanting, or shouting, especially when not wearing a mask and within 6 feet of others.”

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To ensure social distancing, the performance will be held in the main church, with only 250 of its 1,300 seats available. Typically, a smaller concert of this nature, Eberhardt said, would have been held in the original chapel or in the social hall. The concert will be under an hour, with no intermission, and there will be no bathroom facilities available. Eberhardt said she has been tested for COVID-19.

“We want people to feel safe,” Eberhardt said, noting that people also have the option to watch the performance live online, as St Louis Church invested in camera equipment to livestream its Masses during the pandemic.

St. Louis Church is not the only group offering live performances. On Sept. 26, members of the Columbia Orchestra performed “Carnival of the Animals” and “Aesop’s Fables” for two live concerts at the Chrysalis in Columbia. Dancers from Dance Connections also joined the group on stage during the two 45-minute concerts.

“The Orchestra consulted with three doctors about the safest way to rehearse and perform,” Katherine Keefe, executive director of the Columbia Orchestra, wrote in an email. “Only a small ensemble of musicians [no more than 10] performed. They wore masks if possible and were spaced at least 6 feet apart. Those who couldn’t wear masks were spaced even farther apart (approximately 20 feet).”

Audience members sat in boxes that were painted on the lawn and spaced six feet apart, she said, and were dismissed in an orderly manner when the performance ended.

“Despite the changes to the concert experience, the audience expressed their excitement and satisfaction with attending a live event,” Keefe wrote in her email.

The group is still working on its plans for future concerts, Keefe said.

Howard County Concert Odyssey decided to postpone all of its remaining events in 2020. It is hoping to open its next season Jan. 31 with an organ recital featuring Jordan Prescott.

“The plan is in place,” said Nancy Mason, president of the Odyssey. “It is one organist. He will be here.”

She is hopeful it will be an in-person concert, though that will depend on the venue — St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City — and social distancing.

“We are here,” Mason said. “We will add concerts as we are able.”

Rehearsals are already underway online for the second concert in the St. Louis Church Concert series on Dec. 13, Eberhardt said.

“It will be a mixed-media presentation,” Eberhardt said, of the holiday show featuring the St. Louis choir. “It will be the first time in history that the choir will be able to attend as audience members.”

Choir members are pre-recording songs for the concert, while soloists will perform live, Eberhardt said.

The third concert on Feb. 21 will celebrate diversity and feature Aundi Marie Moore, a soprano, and the final concert on June 6 will be a performance of Mozart’s Requiem featuring the Columbia Orchestra and Howard County combined choirs if COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“It has been a learning curve,” Eberhardt said. “With everything happening in the world around us, if there is an opportunity to offer this balm [music] in a safe way, I absolutely want to pursue it.”

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