Tarrytown Music Hall Welcomes Back First Arts Patrons In-Person
The first in a series about the return of live performance art to the rivertowns.
By Brianna Staudt–
When the “two-man, psych-funk orchestra,” Paris Monster, took the stage Sunday evening at the Tarrytown Music Hall, it marked an extraordinary moment: it was the first live, indoor performance in front of an audience since the Covid-19 pandemic closed the doors of every arts venue everywhere, including in the rivertowns.
“I think everybody’s excited about the prospect of playing music again because, the thing is, as lovely as a live stream can be, it’s just not a replacement for a real show,” says Tarrytown Music Hall Executive Director Bjorn Olsson.
Olsson is planning a full return at Tarrytown Music Hall for the fall, banking on an improved public health environment and progressively less-restrictive operating requirements from New York State. In the meantime, he’s welcoming back 50 people at a time—in person—to view livestream fundraisers, starting with Paris Monster’s performance on Sunday, April 18. The idea is to start slowly, with a “trial balloon” the hall can use to fine-tune procedures such as check-in, temperature checks, social distancing and asking wellness questions.
“To get 50 people into a theater with 800 capacity, once you’re in, there’s plenty of airspace. The risk is probably very low. The bottlenecks are really getting in and out, the bathrooms, and that sort of thing, so we’re trying to minimize movements in those areas,” says Olsson.
The theater recently added ionization equipment and high-grade filters to its HVAC system, which Olsson described as “suspenders on belt” protection. The music hall also plans shorter shows with no intermissions and limited, if any, concessions this spring. Masks will be required.
Booking new experiences for his music hall patrons typically excites Olsson the most. This year, however, he’s thrilled to invite his regulars back, such as The Mavericks and the Celtic group, Cherish the Ladies, for their Christmas performance. “To get our patrons back in and reconnect them with their favorite artists yet again, that really is the prize here, I think.” (He promises new artists, as well.)
The Tarrytown Music Hall is no stranger to existential threats. At one point in the 1970s, the Village of Tarrytown proposed the then-closed theater be torn down to make way for a parking lot. However, Olsson reports the Tarrytown Music Hall has received an “incredible” amount of support from the public during the pandemic.
“Even though normally, you know, people sign up to be members, and they get early access to ticket sales and that sort of thing — even without that, people felt like, you know what? I’m going to keep my membership because it’s a commitment to my community,” says Olsson. “I kept telling people, ‘If you can be here for us now, we’ll be able to be there for you for many years to come.’ And that seems to be what’s happening.”
But Olsson says the music hall still has a long way to go. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall when we start opening again, because we’re going to start offering big, expensive shows, and we don’t know if the shows that used to sell 800 tickets will now sell 600 tickets, or if it’s going to be, everyone is so pent up — so, it could be that we’re gonna be looking at a longer path to being profitable again.”
“We may still need your support, is basically what I’m saying.”
Olsson loves seeing people have a good time at the theater, from the school groups that come in the mornings to the doo-wop shows that typically bring in his oldest patrons. He explains it usually takes the longest to seat a doo-wop show, but that patrons “dance out.”
“I always say, if you want to know which person is actually running a theater, you want to look for the guy who stands by the stage and watches the audience,” says Olsson. “To sort of have that sort of communion happen in our building, that’s such a blessing.”
Tarrytown Music Hall’s event calendar and ticket sales: https://tickets.tarrytownmusichall.org/