1794 Meetinghouse cancels summer concerts due to COVID-19

  • The 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem has canceled its summer concert program due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2020 1:29:23 PM
Modified: 6/15/2020 1:29:20 PM

NEW SALEM — The 1794 Meetinghouse has canceled its summer concert program due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing.

Diane Lincoln, who sits on the board of directors and serves as artistic director of the summer program, said the decision was heartbreaking, but one that is necessary for public safety.

“We are hoping to re-book many of the 2020 performances for a resurgent season in 2021,” a statement Lincoln posted on the meetinghouse’s Facebook page reads. “We are also talking with some performers about the possibility of livestreaming a concert on or near their original dates; none of these arrangements have been finalized yet.”

Lincoln said the summer program would have consisted of nine shows in June and four in July. Though it was not a part of the summer program, a September performance by a duo playing traditional music has also been canceled.

“Needless to say, the loss of our programs is hitting us, our performers, and our business supporters and advertisers very hard,” the statement reads, going on to ask patrons to “visit performer websites, buy their music, watch their online videos and listen to their own livestreamed concerts.” According to the statement, the board of directors will provide links on the meetinghouse’s website and in email announcements.

Lincoln said these decisions were not made lightly, and came down to a vote following several teleconferences. She does not recall any other time shows have had to be canceled like this.

According to the meetinghouse’s website, construction on the building started in 1794 after the First Church of New Salem, incorporated as the Congregational Society, determined it needed a larger structure for its growing congregation. It was completed in 1795. The building eventually fell into disrepair, and at their 1985 annual meeting, the society’s members formed the 1794 Meetinghouse Preservation Committee to devise a good use for it. Erin Williams, a new community member who ran a cultural center and theater in Philadelphia, had ideas about establishing something similar in New Salem. Williams became executive director in 1990.

The meetinghouse received a $150,000 grant in 1987 and repairs required to open were enabled by an anonymous $10,000 gift in 1993. The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony were held during New Salem Old Home Day in July 1994, the website states.

The 1794 Meetinghouse’s statement mentions the absence of summer events has been financially detrimental. Donations can be made at bit.ly/2B4bXkg.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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