It was one sold out event after another at the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor in 2020 – mind you, last year an audience of 50 equaled a sell out show. It was the year of a pandemic most of us had never lived through before since the last one was in 1918-1919.
Opera House Executive Director Cathy Sherrill and the board of directors focused on how the shows would, or could, go on. “In brief, it was certainly not the year we had planned for the Opera House,” said Sherrill. “With artists cancelling tours as the reality of the pandemic set in last spring, and with group size gatherings limited and with people wisely concerned about gathering at all, it was a challenge but it did allow us to bring more local/Maine-based artists to the big Opera House stage and patrons enjoyed hearing acts they might not otherwise have known about.”
The concerts booked were being canceled at a rapid rate as the spring wore on. That list included Gaelic Storm, Rodney Crowell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Alison Brown, Genticorum, John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band and others, but many rescheduled appearances in 2021. Many shows scheduled for August were tentative.
And it was not until July 1, when Gov. Janet Mills approved the re-opening of larger performance venues, theaters and others, with a 50-person limit, that the Opera House doors reopened. Social distancing and mask wearing were mandatory. Taking the stage July 3, The Boneheads started off the string of sold out shows followed by Dave Rowe, Livingston Taylor, Henley, the Don Campbell Band, a Portland Symphony quartet of flute and strings, Sean Mencher, Boothbay’s Murky Water Band, The Holy Mackerels, Kevin Kiley & Devin Dukes; Golden Oak, Seth Glier, the Scotty River Trio, Celtic duo of fiddler Hanneke Cassel and guitarist Yann Falquest, and others.
The windows at the Opera House remained open through the colder months of October through Dec. 17 and concert goers were asked to dress warmly and bring blankets.
Said Sherrill, “It was fun to post ‘Sold Out’ throughout the summer and fall, even if it was only 50 seats! We all felt that we operated safely, while getting some much needed money into musicians’ and sound engineers’ pockets, and bring a hint of normalcy to a very abnormal year.”
Although the performances did not help underwrite the cost of operations or maintenance, many members of the community provided financial support.
A few annual events were still held, and all CDC guidelines were observed: The spirited Halloween Scary Readings (for, as Sherrill said, scary times); Gingerbread building 101, and the Gingerbread Spectacular.
Tickets for Tommy Emmanuel on April 17 (the first 2021 show) have not gone on sale yet; it all depends on what the state guidelines for large gatherings look like.
“I would classify 2020 as strangely successful in that we actually hosted 34 days and nights of programming and that we are still here,” Sherrill said. “Many of the 2020 shows jumped to the 2021 calendar, but I expect that many of those will now jump to 2022 due to the ongoing calamity of the pandemic, but because of our experience in 2020, we are ready in 2021.”
For the complete 2021 roster, visit https://boothbayoperahouse.com