When the concert appears online Sunday afternoon, viewers can watch at their leisure and opt to make a donation, too.
But the money won’t go to Abendmusik at First-Plymouth Church -- the longtime Lincoln nonprofit that hosted the American Spiritual Ensemble in January and is now offering a video version to the public.
It wasn’t what they’d planned for the 2020 season, said Trey Coley, Abendmusik’s executive director.
Like every other organization that thrived on people coming together, they’d wrestled with how to proceed after COVID-19 hit.
And then artistic director Tom Trenney came up with an idea.
Cancel all in-person events for the rest of the year.
Forgo all income from ticket sales and ad revenue.
Release a free concert each month -- both high-quality reprised Abendmusik events and newly filmed shows.
And give the online audience the option of contributing to a chosen nonprofit.
“This is a brave new world of artistic design for arts organizations,” Coley said. “It was like a light bulb turned on for us.”
The concert released Sunday at 4 p.m. will benefit the Malone Center. Viewers will hear the concert that coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featuring the renowned African-American ensemble in its first visit to Nebraska, the premiere of “Rise Shine!” by University of Nebraska-Lincoln music professor Marques Garrett and music performed by Malone Center youth.
The concert is also an education in the American Negro spiritual tradition which gave birth to jazz, blues, gospel and pop.
“There’s so much we can learn about how those songs came to be and the people who sang them,” Trenney told the Journal Star in January. “The music is going to lift up some of that message of light.”
The concert will include a short video highlighting the Malone Community Center and its mission and a link for donations.
“We wanted to highlight the incredible work of the Malone Center at this time of great social questioning and looking at injustices,” Coley said.
The pandemic-inspired revamped season is an extension of the trajectory the organization had already started, said James Keim, board president.
“We’ve been trying to be more engaged with the community as part of our vision of trying to enrich the community.”
As part of its fall series, Abendmusik has offered a ticketless concert with donations benefiting a nonprofit. Proceeds from last year’s Messiah Sing went to Matt Talbot Kitchen.
The loss of community concerts has been disheartening, but they are looking at the online forum as a way to engage a wider audience, Keim said.
“An opportunity to create community and create hope,” he said. “That’s what I love about the arts.”
Abendmusik is fortunate to have a 50-year history, an endowment and strong support from the community, Coley said.
The entire season has yet to be set, he said, but July will feature Hymnfest and this fall, a silent film festival with piano and organ music befitting the genre, played by Trenney.
“As if you were in a movie theater in the 1920s.”
The board and staff are still finalizing a list of nonprofits to match with each concert, and the organization will continue to feature its regular advertisers at no cost to them.
“The local economy has taken a hit, so it seemed completely unfair to ask our current advertisers for more,” Coley said.
And they will forge ahead with an eye on spring and gathering together at First-Plymouth for music.
“We’re really pleased with what we’ve come up with,” Keim said. “But we’re really looking forward to being in the same space.”
Videos, photos: Creating community amid crisis
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