On Thursday, Sept. 17, Nashville singer/songwriter Maia Sharp played an intimate acoustic show for around 100 people at Genevieve’s, the bar and lounge located inside the Peace Center. On the surface, it might have seemed like simply an enjoyable, low-key Thursday evening show, but it was a lot more than that. In fact, it was the first concert at the Peace Center since March.
The show, part of a series of concerts called “The Poets of Nashville,” marks a return to live music at one of the Upstate’s most beloved venues. But things are quite different this time around.
“It’s been honestly devastating,” Megan Riegel, president & CEO, Peace Center says. “It’s been devastating for our industry worldwide, and everybody’s worried about keeping their jobs.”
“We set up the room so that it’s socially distanced,” says Megan Riegel, president and CEO of the Peace Center. “We’re going to sell 25 tables of four, and people are required to wear a mask when they walk in the building. When they sit down at their table, they can take off the mask, but when they get up from the table to go the bar or to the bathroom, they need to put that mask back on. We feel like it’s very safe because we follow CDC protocols.”
Riegel couldn’t be happier about Sharp’s show.
“I wanted to get through one concert, and see how it went,” she says. “And it went so well. We are so excited we can’t see straight. It worked, and people were so happy to be out, and it was just a beautiful evening.”
In fact, it went so well that Riegel almost immediately expanded the series, which was originally set to run through October with solo performances from Kim Richey, Michael Logan, Kyshona and more.
“We already announced the lineup for October, but after that first show we decided to book all the way through November,” she says.
“We had a great team of 100 part-time people and 54 full-time people. Now we have no part-time people and 19 full-time. That part of it was so hard.” – Megan Riegel, president & CEO, Peace Center
Riegel says that the small, socially distanced show was a ray of light after months of darkness.
“It’s been honestly devastating,” she says. “It’s been devastating for our industry worldwide, and everybody’s worried about keeping their jobs. The hardest thing for me is that you take years to build up a great team, and we had a great team of 100 part-time people and 54 full-time people. Now we have no part-time people and 19 full-time. That part of it was so hard. There were two months where I didn’t even walk through the theater space because I just couldn’t do it.”
Riegel spent about a month creating the series with Grammy-winning Nashville producer, songwriter and engineer Brett Maher, whose Moraine Music Group company represents some of the artists who will be performing at Genevieve’s.
“Brett and I have been brainstorming,” she says, “and I’m passionate about songwriters. If it weren’t for the songwriters, we wouldn’t have what we put on our stages. I wanted to nurture these songwriters and give them a place to play.”
Riegel is refreshingly honest about when asked what she would say to people to convince them that the Genevieve’s concerts are safe.
“I wouldn’t,” she says bluntly. “All I can do is tell them what we’re doing to make it safe, but they’ve got to find in their own hearts if it’s the right thing for them to do to venture out. It’s so personal, and I wouldn’t want to try to convince somebody of anything right now. I don’t think it’s the place of the venues to try to convince someone to come. That just doesn’t feel right to me. All we can do is guarantee that we’ve taken precautions, and I feel good about the precautions we’ve taken.”
Visit www.peacecenter.org for the Genevieve’s concert schedule.