In time of COVID-!9, small music venues survive | Life and Entertainment

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TROY, N.Y. — When it comes to local music in the COVID-!9 era, it seems the route to survival is being a small fish in a big pond.

Large free music concerts series like Albany’s Live at Five and downtown Troy’s Rockin’ on the River never produced a show. However, in Lansingburgh, the small and often neglected Powers Park Concert series offered seven live concerts. (Two were cancelled because of weather.)

In fact, in order to insure safe conditions, this year the concert series didn’t start until August. This give audiences a bonus, as Powers Park will be producing music through Sept. 12.

On Saturday, Legend will offer a Rock Anthem night; on Sept. 12, it’s Country Night as Whisky Highway commands the Neil Kelleher Stage in Powers Park.

It helps if the small venues have a determined leader with a passion for the event. Powers Park has Vito Ciccarelli, who helped start the series in 2004. Ciccarelli, in a recent telephone interview, said it was a combination of his love of music and a devotion to the Powers Park loyal audience that drove him to find a way to navigate all the safety regulations that have been too daunting for other musical series.

Ciccarelli admits it helps to have a small venue. Where Rockin’ on the River and Alive at 5 drew thousands of people, the size of Powers Park limited the crowd to several hundred. As a Covid precaution capacity has been cut in half. Ciccarelli says, it is smart to arrive early, because though they might be small the series has a loyal and enthusiastic following.

He goes on to say how the behavior of the Powers Park audience has permitted the concert to continue without a health incident. “Just about everyone respects the rules,” he says. “We have circles for social distancing and everyone follows the guidelines. When they leave their area, they wear face masks as is required.”

Sterilization is helped by the fact that people bring their own chairs.

Ciccarelli, who is the Rensselaer County Director of Special Events, points out that Rensselaer County also held now-completed concert series in Brunswick and Schaghticoke. The reason for such activity, he says, is his boss, Steve McLaughlin (Rensselaer County Executive).

“He (McLaughlin) is aware of the importance of music events not only as a public service, but as an economic driver. I worry about small businesses who are affected by people staying home. Music brings people out of their homes and maybe they’ll visit a restaurant or some local business before or after the concert. The public not only appreciates the free entertainment, they, like everyone else in the world, need some brightness in their world.”

One of the things he is proud of about the concerts being held is that so many people in the private and public sector helped make it happen. “A lot of people give me too much credit. One of the things I love about the Powers Park Concert Series is how everyone works together to make it happen.”

He says he is especially grateful for the support of Jim Gulli, the Lansingburgh representative on the Troy City Council. “This would never have happened without Jim’s support. He was amazing, especially in helping us find sponsorships.”

“It is personally very rewarding to understand after 17 years how much this concert series means to so many people. From Mayor Madden on down, the City of Troy has been supportive at every level. He gives a special shout out to Deputy Mayor Monica Kurzejeski. “She was invaluable in so many areas, especially getting us on the right path for safety concerns.”

But the special place in his heart goes out to his loyal audiences, his volunteers, the sponsors and the musicians. “They make it all worthwhile. Musicians love to play here, my volunteers do anything they can to help.

After a thoughtful pause, he adds, “As for our loyal audiences, the smiles on the faces of people who come up to thank me at the end of every show …” another pause, and his voice trails off. His affected silence expresses more that words could accomplish.

To become familiar with the type of music Ciccarelli enjoys, go to the web radio station RadioRadioX.com. He has a show that airs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday evenings and is repeated on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m.

For more information on Powers Park Concert Series go their Facebook page.

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