COVID did its part to convert “Music Talks” into “Music Silence” for significant parts of 2020. I wrote an article late last year about local cable show “Music Talks”. It is the brainchild of host Chelsea Ritenour and behind the scenes guy Rick Fike. The show was created to promote the local music scene by having an interview with local artists followed by the musicians performing a set of songs.
The show was birthed in 2019 and was an almost immediate success. Everything just seemed to fall into place. Part way through their pilot season they discovered the perfect place to film their episodes at Bar None in Uniontown. Bar None had a stage, sound system, their own sound tech and lighting so it was the ideal match for Music Talks. By the time their second season was ready to start in 2020, they almost had all of the upcoming year booked with musical acts. Then COVID decided it wanted a prominent spot into the schedule.
The weekly shows were going as planned for the first two and a half months of 2020 before, like everything else in the world, it came to a screeching halt. Restaurants and bars closed their doors because of the pandemic. Some of the new factors of dealing with COVID became an issue. For instance when the number of people that could gather had to be considered, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin for the show continuing. Prior to 2020, you never stopped to think how many people it takes at a bare minimum to run a show, let alone the band, until you are forced to do a head count. So with all of these things to factor in, Music Talks took an unwanted hiatus until very late summer.
Around September of 2020, things seemed to be getting slightly better. Rick and Chelsea decided to resume filming again. The warmer weather allowed them to shoot the first couple weeks outside in a local park where everyone was comfortable and had no problems social distancing. But with the quick approach of fall, they knew that being outside was a very short-term alternative. Sadly Bar None, the venue they had come to love, was one of the casualties of COVID. Like so many others, not being able to weather the pandemic storm it was forced to permanently close its doors.
Luckily they found another indoor place to film at the local Connellsville community center. But it was not set up to host bands so that introduced some technicalities that were not present at Bar None. Now Music Talks had to provide their own lighting, sound setup and sound crew. But on a positive side, there was an auditorium stage that allowed for plenty of social distancing and could handle a full size band. Unfortunately for Music Talks this was not to be the end of the new challenges.
With COVID the scheduling of bands now became a challenge. They had bands lined up to play for the weekly events, but on more than one occasion a last minute call would come with the sad news that someone in the band had COVID or had been exposed to someone who had it. The ease which scheduling bands to perform before COVID had now become like a game of Three-card Monte. You never knew for sure which band would be on the show that week until they were on actually on stage that night. With a tremendous amount of juggling, they were able to successfully pull it off until COVID once more demanded an appearance.
In November, Music Talks was once more forced to stop filming. The bands that were scheduled were again put on hold. If or when the show was going to continue was once again in question. Fast forward four months and it is starting to look like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. They have decided to try again to start filming in March. Bands are already scheduled for the first couple months for their appearance on the show. Music Talks still plans on hosting the show at the community center and are taking any precautions required to make everyone safe.
Knowing their story has shown me that Rick and Chelsea are ones to persevere through all the curve balls that 2020 threw their way. Chelsea said that COVID taught her that you have to be creative and look for ways to do things differently when the way you did it before just doesn’t work any longer. I’m sad that venues like Bar None have become victims to the difficulties of 2020. But I’m happy that things look like they will be getting better in 2021 for Music Talks. It would have been a sad day for the local scene if this music promoter had become another casualty. If you are a musician and would like to be on their show, reach out and get on the list. Whether or not you are a performer, check out their weekly show once it starts again in March and follow them on Facebook. You can do this from the comfort of your living room. First Angel Media will be working in conjunction with Music Talks when they resume in March and will have a link to their show each week.
As we all know, everyone has reacted to 2020 differently. Last week I told you how COVID has impacted me personally. Over the next few weeks I will continue to interview people with different roles in the arts and entertainment industry to share with you their experiences during this time. I believe you’ll find some commonality each week with someone. If nothing else you’ll find that they are in a different place today than they would have imagined a year ago. So if you have a story to share to show people they are not alone, just reach out to me. Or if not, check back every Wednesday to read someone else’s story. It just may be what you need to hear.