Valley News – Out & About: Indoor shows return to Lebanon Opera House


Published: 06/23/2021 10:29:26 PM

Modified: 6/23/2021 10:29:32 PM

LEBANON – There’s a feeling Joe Clifford looks forward to before a live show starts at the Lebanon Opera House.

“I just have to say, I’m really waiting for that moment to be inside and for the flow,” said Clifford, executive director of the nonprofit arts organization in downtown Lebanon. “It’s that moment when the lights go out and you can feel the anticipation. I kind of miss that. ”

Later this summer, those moments will re-exist when the live shows resume at the Lebanon Opera House. Singer / guitarist Richard Thompson is scheduled to perform on August 25th. It will be the first full capacity show since the opera house closed 15 months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was actually Friday, March 13th, when we announced that we would be closing. I remember it well, ”said Clifford. The last show was a screening of Buster Keaton’s silent film The general, with live piano accompaniment March 6, 2020. “During the shutdown it was Broadway and then Live Nation. That only set the tone for the rest of the country. ”

Participants in August who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear a mask; those who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to do so.

“My basic message is: let’s just take care of each other,” said Clifford. “We only have one chance to get this right, this reopening.”

It is a moment that employees and artists alike have longingly been waiting for. Everything had to be right: the artists had to feel safe on tour and that the demand was there. The number of COVID-19 cases had to decrease and vaccination rates had to increase.

Only one question remains: are people ready to sit next to each other in the theater again?

“At this point my biggest question is consumer confidence,” said Clifford. “I think there is a lot of catching up to do and energy.”

In the months after it closed, the Opera House did what many arts organizations across the Upper Valley did: switch to virtual programming. The opera house staff worked online with artists they had not previously worked with in person.

“I think we got audiences well beyond the Upper Valley for this show. We have a few new fans, ”said Clifford. “It will be worth trying to keep this alive, definitely.”

In addition to its own performances, the opera house also rents its premises in the town hall to community groups for performances and events. The other source of funding is donations.

“It is terrifying to cut half of your funding flow entirely,” said Clifford. During the pandemic, the opera house received state and federal government funding. Patrons also continued to donate. “It really gave us a certain level of comfort to just keep looking to the future.”

This first future event is the Nexus Music and Arts Festival, which will be held in downtown Lebanon from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th August. the band in Colburn Park and a smaller stage in the Lebanon Mall. There will also be food trucks and community art projects that people can participate in.

“It really is our gift to those who helped us get through this really tough time,” said Clifford of the free event. “My hope is that this will be an annual event and that it will really kick off our new season every year.”

Artists announced so far include Twisted Pine, Bitter Pill, Mystic Bowies Talking Dreads and Moondance. The chalk artist Katie Runde will create a 3D work of art in downtown Lebanon. For more information on Nexus, visit

The Lebanon Opera House staff started planning the festival months ago in the hopes that the pandemic would have subsided by mid-August and people would feel safe again. The summer concert series starts in Lebanon in July and people gather at the weekly farmers’ market. In 2020, downtown felt too quiet, Clifford said. That is starting to change.

“There’s so much on the horizon,” said Clifford. “We’ll come back to the problem of having too many good options.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.


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