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Keeping a band active in time of Covid


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The site has been rather slow of late.  So, I figure I will attempt to get some input on a dulcimer-related subject.  Our band contains 4 on-stage performers, a sound engineer, accountant, webmaster, and den mother.  We normally have around 15 instruments on stage, during concerts.  We all play multiple instruments and sing lead and backing vocals.  Right in the middle of the stage area, are our two hammer dulcimers.  The band is not a hammer dulcimer band, but the hammer dulcimers certainly are a very large part of our persona.

In 2019/2020, medical issues and then the rise of C19 played havoc with our band and its venues.  As the medical issues began to straighten out, C19 accelerated...  We lost quite a large number of concerts, and also could not get together safely to rehearse our songs, tunes, sets, new material, etc.  During this time period, we lost our sound engineer - quite a loss, both personally and professionally, for the band.  

We began  lot of rehearsing again, in early 2021, as venues again opened up, and we signed concerts.  We worked so hard, to attempt to get back to a respectable enough musical posture, to go on stage, again.  August, 2021, we performed at a large outdoor natural bowl, with a new sound engineer and a large crowd.  All was well.  A number of successful concerts later, and we are again pushing up against venues closing down, family illness in band members' lives, etc.  We have many concerts scheduled during 2022, and it is rather disconcerting to see where this all may be heading... again. 

Our band is beginning its 9th year together, and we want to continue.  Do any of you out there have established performing groups that have been affected by the state of the pandemic, and the effects it has caused to occur, in the live music performance world ?  I am interested to learn how you are faring, and to learn any hints and suggestions you may have for us - and for other performing groups.

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I don't know what to tell ya, Byll.  The band I'm associated with has been around for 6+ years,  but we're only 5 singer/songwriters (vocalist, guitar, guitar/banjo, mandolin, and me on mtn dulcimer/cajon/rhythm).  We do our own sound.  We're the house band for a local waterfront restaurant's lunch and dinner service a cou0ple days a week, as well as playing a number of local festivals and gatherings.  We're not trying to be full-time musicians, just two steps up from a garage band -- playing for tips and pass the hat. 
Here in Florida we didn't lock down hard, but none of us are young so we distanced widely.  So, the weather being good here, we rehearsed outdoors (where we normally play anyway) instead of indoors, separated by 10 feet instead of 2.   Sometimes we would rehearse at a local park without amped sound, just to 'keep our hands in' playing for what passed (literally) as an audience.

Schedule wise, we lost almost all of our gigs for 2020 -- beginning in March restaurants closed, festivals and gatherings cancelled.  In early '21 much the same, but by midsummer things began opening more.  Now we're back to Wednesday & Saturday lunch and every other Saturday dinner, and have a couple of festivals lined up for the next two months unless C-omicron shuts things down.  

Edited by NoterMan
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Thanks, NoterMan.  Your ideas concerning rehearsing outdoors are not something we have tried.  That methodology cannot be done now, in Pennsylvania, because of frigid temps and snow.  I would complain about how hot our summer sun is, but that would be laughable to you, living in Florida.  But your idea is definitely  something to think about. 

We perform in lots of Celtic and other festivals, schools, retirement communities, church secular concert series, libraries, park concert series, arts' centers, historical societies, City First Nights, etc.  It is not surprising that so many of those venues shut down because of C19.  

A sound system is a necessity for us.  We would love to perform acoustically, but it is not really possible.  With the many instruments we have onstage, our footprint is quite large, for the four of us.  We do a lot of close vocal harmonies, and we absolutely need to be able to hear each other.  No way can that happen, acoustically.  We are attempting to work toward in-ear monitoring (IEM), but stage monitors are still the name of the game. 

My biggest concern, is that venues may shut down again, for any number of reasons, including of course, for safety reasons.  it took so much hard work for us to come back to a musical unity, which allowed us to return to the stage. Thinking of repeating that exercise, is not pleasant...

Like you, except for me, we are not full time musicians.  One of us is a stay-at-home mom, one is the office manager for a large home and commercial building company, and one is a more than full time medical doctor.  All of us are products of previous bands, including those of us who have worked with each other before.  I am blessed to be on stage with 2 of my previous Junior and Senior High School students, from a whole lot of years ago.  We range in age from early 30s, through 60s, to mid 70s, with me filling that last age slot.  

The beat goes on, Sir.  Thank you for a good idea.  I hope I hear a few more...

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You know.... if you can find a large-ish empty building space --  gym, empty commercial space, meeting room in a condo or community building, etc. -- you could practice "together apart" to keep up skills and work up new arrangments.  Sit in a circle and play to each other.  You may not need electronics for that situation.

So many people think the pandemic is over, just because they want it to be.  We've still got 2 years or more before the infection/death level from Covid falls below the 2010 death count from influenza in the US -- 37,000.    Then the fat lady will sing and it will be overe!


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  • 3 weeks later...

It amuses me, NoterMan...  looking at your post of a few weeks ago (sorry for the hiatus). I realize that all of the spaces that you suggest, in which my band might  practice, we have actually either rehearsed in (very large meeting room in a commercial builder's office suite), or performed in, over the years.  Folk music concerts often have some odd venues... We are not strangers to performing in a variety of venues, as I shared above.  

I think what I am after are ideas and suggestions, concerning how to keep our existing music fresh, keep the band's energy up to arrange new music, how to rehearse safely, etc.,  in times when concerts and performing in general, are again being crushed.   

I suppose it is possible that what I am looking for, may not be able to be found, at the moment.  Wow.  Talk about a 'first world' problem...   Again, our hopes rise a bit, as - in our area - the surge is slowing down.  I fear that I am not as trusting and optimistic as I once was...

An issue that may somehow be related to our band's challenges:  I would love to see the new Everything Dulcimer be a success.  Those that post from time to time have interest, knowledge, and enthusiasm - 3 characteristics needed for this site to succeed.  However, I have noted what seems to be a dearth of interest in hammer dulcimer issues specifically, of late.  I wish I had a modus operandi that could assist, to help rectify that situation.



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Well, I suppose you could "dump" your existing set(s) and generate a completely new one.  That would get everybody practicing and keep the interest up, I suppose.  If making money isn't an issue, pick a target date for a summer Play In The Park open air concert, to introduce the new repertoire.

As far as HD here in the "new"  ED, I don't think this site has gotten much, if any exposure on any of the Facebook  HD or MD pages so the folks ther aren't coming here.  Back in the Day, when the original ED was "the" place for dulcimers of all types, there wasn't FB.  Nowadays everyone younger than 50 wants the instant gratification of transitory "sound bites" rather than in-depth discussions like we had.   

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We create a new set list for every concert.  In pre-pandemic days of yore, we were constantly creating songs, tunes, sets of tunes, etc.   Not being able to actually be together often in our 'rehearsal emporium,' has thrown a rather large monkey-wrench into our creative flow.  Heh.  We do have 3 rehearsals scheduled for this month - again trying to return to some semblance of normalcy - and much time will be spent on our upcoming concert, plus attempting to recover some of our larger repertoire, and put it in the 'ready for concert' file, again.

Yes, I suspect that your comments concerning social media are spot on.  I have never taken the Facebook plunge. I am blessed with wonderful friends and family.  Never saw the need for... uh... volume of contacts.  

Our band performs a recent novelty song by John McCutcheon, called CONTROL.    Our arrangement uses back-ground vocals, and adds instruments, but the basic message remains John's.  He speaks truth concerning his take on Facebook, in his last verse...  Check it out, on YouTube.

In the band, I also play Irish whistle in multiple keys, both bass and alto melodion, and sing...  We all sing lead and backup...   There is an international Whistle Board out there, called Chiff and Fipple.  It has existed for quite some time.  It somehow has survived the Facebook onslaught.  I wish I knew their secret.  

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