To stay connected while physically distant, Newton’s Cultural Development department is bringing local performers right into residents’ homes.
Newtonians can start streaming concerts Jan. 27 with a new series called the Parlor Performances. This virtual event will feature one local artist or duo every Wednesday for six weeks, ending on March 3.
Paula Gannon, director of Newton Cultural Development, said these performances come at a particularly important time.
“Our arts community is hurting, especially our performers,” Gannon said. “There aren’t any big halls and audiences and tickets being sold.”
Plans for the pre-recorded performances have been in the works since November, Gannon said. While the Cultural Development department has dedicated its efforts to finding safe ways people can connect with the arts, she said concerts have eluded Newton — until now.
Performing without an in-person crowd brings unique challenges for the performers, said singer and songwriter Kaylee Federmann. She said she had to take a different approach when pre-recording her session.
Viewers can expect a “roller coaster effect” from her show, Federmann said.
“You start high, and then you bring them low, and then you bring them back up, and then a little twist,” Federmann said.
Nikola Stajic, event coordinator and performer, said he is excited to share Federmann’s show, and when she recorded the session with him, he said he got “chills.”
“I felt like she was just performing for me,” Stajic said. “I think people will have the same feeling.”
Gannon said the series is not simply for entertainment, but to “give the community a chance to learn something at the same time.” Each week will focus on a different musical genre, including pop, classical, and jazz.
Every Wednesday, viewers can use the Facebook chat to “connect in a COVID-safe manner,” Gannon said.
“Maybe it sparks a memory for you,” Gannon said. “Or you’re learning, you’re hearing a new song, you’re hearing a new type of melody that you’re not familiar with and you’re able to express that through the chat function.”
Federmann said she’ll be keeping her eyes on the chat to see if a neighbor pops up.
“I think it’s a slightly different audience,” Federmann said. “I’m curious to see if I know any of the names.”
Gloria Gavris, newly elected chair of the board of directors for Newton Community Pride, said the group was happy to sponsor this event. Organizers wanted to provide an enjoyable Wednesday show for residents in the “comfort and safety of their own home” and transport musicians “into their living rooms.”
Gannon said the series’ title — Parlor Performances — was inspired by the Cultural Development office’s relocation to Newton Centre. In the new building, she said there is a room with a couch that she thought would be perfect for hosting recording sessions for musicians.
“It just reminded me of days when families would gather together and have live performances in their parlor,” Gannon said. “That’s what they used to do for entertainment, and so it just brought back that sense of nostalgia for me.”
Stajic said the sessions give the opportunity for local artists struggling during the pandemic to perform for the Newton community.
“I really think it’s important for the soul and for the mind to be exposed to something rather good,” said Stajic. “I believe we are able to give people something that hopefully will be appreciated.”
Residents can stream concerts on the Newton Cultural Development department’s Facebook page at 7:30 p.m. starting Jan. 27.
Melissa Ellin and Riley Villiers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.