The show goes on: Philharmonic tweaks cabaret and season dates so music can continue

The show will go on — at least for now — for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Cabaret at The Commons series and its 34th orchestral season “Out of This World.”

But there will be some adjustments and restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ever-popular jazz pianist and singer Tony DeSare will serve as a last-minute addition as a Cabaret at The Commons artist for a show slated at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at a socially-distanced, 250-seat Commons at 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus. The normal cabaret layout allows for 400-plus seats for those concerts, and many shows have sold out.

Those who had purchased tickets for the Megan Hilty/Cheyenne Jackson canceled cabaret this summer can now use those tickets for DeSare.

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The performance will mark DeSare’s fourth appearance in Columbus since 2015, which is the most visits by any single artist in such a short time span in the Philharmonic’s 34 years of existence, according to organizers.

“He’s hugely popular,” said David Bowden, the orchestra’s artistic director.

DeSare performed a sellout season-opening show with the Philharmonic orchestra last fall.

The orchestra’s season-opening concert on Sept. 19, originally slated to feature Broadway star Caissie Levy, who sold out a local cabaret show last year, has been recast to feature the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra. Levy, like a lot of her Broadway cohorts, is being more cautious after the COVID-19 death of 41-year-old stage actor Nick Cordero this summer.

Bowden said that understandable caution has had an impact on rescheduling.

The first orchestral show has also been moved outdoors to the spacious Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza because Judson Erne Auditorium is currently unavailable for public shows, according to Bowden.

“Rather than cancel everything, we wanted to do something to bring back live music for our listeners,” Bowden said. “We have had so many people saying, ‘We really miss the live music.’ And our board members have been saying that they really want to help the community in this time — in such a critical time right now. We need to be a part of the life of the community because the community needs the gift of music for their soul.”

Barry Turner, the Philharmonic’s board president, offered a similar perspective.

“The Philharmonic’s mission statement says that our charter is to bring live music to the community,” Turner said. “And with all of the terribly difficult situations we’re all dealing with, we still believe that’s very important.”

The Philharmonic has stepped in during other emergencies and challenges, including after the 2008 flood, to offer musical solace.

For the time being, the jazz orchestra concert in September will be limited to 250 people, per Gov. Eric Holcomb’s restriction for public gatherings, including masks and social distancing. But the Philharmonic is submitting a plan for approval to the Bartholomew County Health Department to allow more than 250 people as a kind of free, community gathering (though Bowden said he hoped some would make donations to help the cause).

Dr. Brian Niedbalski, Bartholomew County Health Officer, said he would consider the request with the wisdom and expertise of a health department nursing supervisor and an environmental health supervisor.

“Obviously, a lot of these things are uncharted territory,” Niedbalski said.

He added that masking and social distancing are generally expected to be done on an honor system at such events.

So far, during the pandemic, the largest known public crowd has been a larger-than-expected gathering of 700 to 1,000 people — nearly all wearing masks — who safely gathered for a racial solidarity rally in early June at Columbus City Hall.

Jeff Anderson, founder and musical director of the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra, said he expects the program to be “a good summertime mix” of jazz and big band classics with a 10-member ensemble.

“We do very audience-friendly concerts,” Anderson said.

Bowden said other tweaks and changes are expected for future concerts. Broadway performer Telly Leung’s rescheduled Sept. 10 Cabaret at The Commons date is expected to go on as planned.

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