MINDEN — While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s time for the show to go on in one of south central Nebraska’s premier destinations for live performances.
For that reason, the Minden Opera House will change things up and present concerts Saturday and Sept. 12 in an outdoor venue — the newly refurbished bandshell in Minden’s Chautauqua Park.
The MOH On The Go outdoor concerts, both slated for 7 p.m., will allow for social distancing. The bandshell is located near Seventh Street and Minden Avenue, two blocks north of the town square.
On Saturday, Bill Forness will perform “The Best of Johnny Cash” with a show featuring Cash hits from the 1950s onward. The set list includes “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line” and “Boy Named Sue.”
Then, on Sept. 12 Josh Hoyer will take the stage with his brand of soul and funk music.
Hoyer made a name for himself in 2017 when he was featured as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.” He and his band, Soul Colossal, have performed previously at the Opera House — as has Forness.
As conditions permit, both Hoyer and Forness are planning full band shows back inside the Opera House sometime in 2021, but for now will be performing solo.
“They both have been just unbelievably accommodating in all this,” said Marcy Brandt, Minden Opera House executive director. “Performers are just trying to roll with it and keep doing what they do, however that looks.”
Those attending the upcoming concerts are strongly encouraged to maintain social distancing and to wear masks, which will be available on site free of charge for those needing one.
Admission won’t be charged, but free-will donations will be accepted and can be made either in person on the nights of the shows or online at mindenoperahouse.com.
Concessions will be available at the Opera House, on the north side of the square, both nights from 6-7 p.m. Those attending should note that although new park restrooms are under construction near the bandshell, they aren’t complete, so no restrooms will be available.
MOH is coordinating with the city of Minden and the Two Rivers Public Health Department to ensure adherence to all health directives related to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic.
An MOH To Go concert that had been scheduled for Aug. 28, featuring the husband-and-wife duo of Kevin Cheng on piano and Heidi Cheng on violin, was canceled at least in part due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak in the Minden community, Brandt said.
Minden’s bandshell, built in 1947 on the site of an oldtime city auditorium, has been the venue for numerous outdoor performances over the years, ranging from band concerts to live theater productions to Chautauqua lectures. The structure had fallen into disrepair in recent years but now has been rehabilitated and is ready to shelter performers once again.
Brandt said having the upcoming performances outdoors should increase the margin of safety for everyone involved, and the shows will be a nice chance to re-familiarize audiences with one of the city park system’s great assets.
“It’s not often we break down the walls and go elsewhere with a show,” Brandt said with a laugh, referring to the Opera House. “But the city has done this great job redoing that bandshell, and to see it sitting there empty in such a time as this, it’s like, ‘Gosh, somebody should be using it.’ ”
Because of COVID-19, the Opera House schedule has been wiped of live, in-person public performances since mid-March.
While it’s out of the ordinary, Brandt said, offering a couple of outdoor concerts in September should provide a morale boost for everyone who loves and misses live music and the sense of community that goes with gathering to enjoy the performing arts.
“I think it’s so important for us to kind of regain our connectedness as people right now,” she said. “Watching on YouTube isn’t the same as being there in that moment.”
For more information call the Opera House at 308-832-0588 or visit www.mindenoperahouse.com.