At a time when most performing arts venues have shifted their presentations online or pushed their programming to next year, the Caramoor Summer Music Festival has announced a plan to offer live performances at its 80-acre estate in Northern Westchester, New York, later this summer.
Unable to present its full summer season as planned, the festival’s “Summer 20/2.0” program is an attempt to “position itself to participate responsibly in New York’s re-opening process.” To achieve this, it is offering a mix of live streamed, on-site performances with performances for reduced in-person audiences, as well as opening up the gardens for limited tours.
“As we were looking at this pandemic, our first thought was not to lament what we couldn’t do, but how we could apply creativity to see what we could do,” says Caramoor CEO Jeff Haydon. “We are in a unique position because we have a big park area of woodlands, gardens, and fields.”
That said, Haydon acknowledges this is “a dynamic situation” and all the activities will be subject to current government health and safety guidelines. With that in mind, the festival has implemented a flexible plan, separating the live streamed events (which run July 2 to August 6) from the later live events (which run Saturdays from July 18 to August 8). It will also open its outdoor spaces to the public, beginning in mid-July, when visitors will be able to enjoy site-specific sound art installations.
Live stream performances include pianist Inon Barnatan (July 2), a musical exploration of the 1932 opera Tom-Tom by Shirley Graham Du Bois (July 9), classical ensemble Decoda (July 12), the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence alum Calidore String Quartet (July 16), musicians from The Knights orchestra (July 23), and an evening of music performed by alumni of Caramoor’s young-artist mentoring program (July 30).
The live public concerts kick off with virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers (July 18), singer-songwriter Rachael Price and singer and guitarist Vilray (July 25), Charles Turner and Uptown Swing (August 1), and the all-female mariachi group Flor de Toloache (August 8).
The live events will be held in a newly renovated area called Friends Field, which Haydon estimates would typically accommodate an audience of 1,500. But in the current context, the festival would likely limit attendance to approximately 20 percent of that to allow for appropriate social distancing.
“We understand the concept of what we’re trying to do,” says Haydon, who has been paying close attention to how other parts of the state and the country are opening up. “We have to be safe, but we also understand that inspiration is what helps us heal.”