The Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath announced that its fall concert season, with COVID-19 aware restrictions, would take place indoors after the pandemic turned off lights at the historic arts venue for over a year.
The upcoming concerts will be the first that the arts center has been holding since December 2019 in the 174-year-old neo-Gothic style church it has been calling home since December 2019, said Chocolate Church Arts Center’s executive director William Lederer. The venue’s spring 2020, autumn 2020 and spring 2021 seasons have all been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the arts center put on 30-40 outdoor shows at the Maine Maritime Museum, Bath Waterfront Park, and in the backyards of residential buildings in the area, Lederer said putting on a show at Chocolate Church “just feels different.”
“We are an organization with a real sense of place,” says Lederer. “Part of our mission is to maintain this building. We can bring our character with us wherever we want to present an event, but there is something about having people in this room that has so much history and so many people have worked hard to keep it special. “
Built in 1847, the brown church towers over Washington Street in downtown Bath and serves as both a performing arts space and an art gallery, which remained open during the pandemic.
Main Street Bath Director Amanda McDaniel said attending indoor church concerts “will come home to as many people in Bath”.
“The building itself is iconic and means a lot to the people here,” said McDaniel. “There are generations of Bath residents who have such a strong connection with Chocolate Church. Slowly getting out of the pandemic that we can look forward to is another piece of normalcy. We cannot take these things for granted. “
The outdoor shows the arts center was hosting in the meantime drew an average of around 300 visitors, as the church can hold, which helped keep the nonprofit’s lights on amid the pandemic. However, Lederer said donations from about 300 individuals and local businesses over the past 18 months have helped make up for the lost revenue.
Maine folk duo Schooner Fare, comprised of brothers Stephen and Chuck Romanoff, will open the fall concert season on Friday, September 17, followed by up-and-coming Maine band Dead Gowns on Sunday, September 19.
Another group of Maine brothers, Sean and Jamie Oshima, known as the Oshima Brothers, will bring their harmonious blend of contemporary folk and acoustic pop to Chocolate Church on Saturday, September 25th.
On Saturday, October 9th, the Chocolate Church will host Lady Lamb, the stage name of Aly Spaltro, a folk, pop and indie rock singer and songwriter who spent a large part of her childhood in Braunschweig.
“This season we built up around artists and talents from our region, both young and up-and-coming artists as well as established artists who have always played here,” said Lederer. He said the nonprofit wants to support local talent who have lost much of their income during the pandemic.
Bath is following the lead of other music events in Maine, requiring attendees to provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the performance. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from this policy as they are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lederer said having evidence of a vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is “the only sensible decision” both to contain the spread of the virus and because some musicians are demanding it.
“We have to do it to protect our community and artists and to enable us to continue making art available to as many people as possible,” said Lederer. “We have no other choice. We cannot be responsible for making someone sick. We want to protect our artists, guests, employees and volunteers. “
Lederer said the nonprofit has received largely positive feedback from the community, even though “we had one or two people who weren’t happy about it.”
According to state data, nearly 76% of eligible Sagadahoc county residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Nationwide, around 73% of eligible Mainers were fully vaccinated.
Evidence of vaccination for a negative COVID-19 test is required for State Theater, Thompsons Point and Portland House of Music in Portland, Maine State Music Theater in Brunswick and Opera House in Boothbay Harbor.
Face-covering is strongly recommended for some Chocolate Church events and required by performing artists upon request for others.
Tickets for individual concerts are available at chocolatechurcharts.org or by calling the box office at (207) 442-8455.
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