Sounds of the Season concert

The Cathedral Voices Chamber Choir and Jackson Hole Youth Orchestra perform in late-December during the “Sounds of the Season” concert at the Center of the Arts. Local venues have had difficulties with bookings amid the ongoing COVID-19 spike.

Everyone in the world is dealing with direct and indirect effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but here in Jackson Hole the performing arts have a front row seat for the crisis.

The most conspicuous manifestation over the past couple of weeks has been a rash of canceled or postponed events. Leftover Salmon, originally booked for Jan. 20 for the Center for the Arts, was the most recent act to call its date off, with no new date set as of Friday. Most events have pushed their dates to early February or March, in hopes that the current wave of the omicron variant will have peaked and subsided by then.

“We’re certainly dealing with the cancellation piece,” said Marty Camino, executive director of the Center for the Arts. “The reality is it’s been an issue for us and for presenting organizations and performing arts centers across the nation, and for me personally, for about two years. It’s tiring and it’s challenging, just when you feel like things have leveled out and you’ll begin to see more consistency in planning, you have one of these spikes again.”

Recent audience attendance has been bitten, too, Camino said, noting a bump in no-shows — people who bought tickets but didn’t come to the event — for KT Tunstall’s concert in late December, but, he said, he couldn’t pin that specifically on COVID-19 concerns.

“We also got all that snow, which factors in differently here,” he said.

The Wort Hotel and its sister venue, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, have doggedly maintained a busy music calendar throughout most of the pandemic, talent buyer Justin Smith said, and it’s largely been successful in keeping its stage booked and its tables occupied.

“We did have a band cancel for an upcoming show,” Smith said, “and had to find new talent to go in there. Their guitar player got COVID and got it bad—so it’s concerning, having a fellow musician actually be impacted by the disease in a real way.” But, he said, the two venues have been diligent about following state and local health safety guidelines, have been upfront about it with patrons and with musical guests, and have passed muster with inspectors throughout the past 20-plus months.

“We’re doing the best we can to follow state and local guidelines, as we always have,” he said. “To stay open and provide world-class entertainment in our small mountain town. That’s our objective — I’m proud of our crew and our leadership for walking the line. It’s not about the bottom line: it’s about safety and staying open in the face of a very hard time.”

A professional musician himself, Smith said it’s also about giving musicians the chance to play their craft for appreciative audiences.

Contact Richard Anderson at 732-7078 or rich@jhnewsandguide.com.

Since moving to Jackson Hole in 1992, Richard has covered everything from local government and criminal justice to sports and features. He currently concentrates on arts and entertainment, heading up the Scene section.

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