Virus Affects Christian Concert Scene

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Newsboys UnitedNewsboys United’s concert in April was one of many postponed or cancelledUsually the announcement looked something like this: "To ensure the safety of our fans, we're announcing the postponement of the remaining dates on the_____ tour effective immediately. We are working diligently to reschedule dates as soon as possible, and we will notify ticket holders immediately of the rescheduled dates."

That was the exact wording used by the promoter in the cancellation of the Newsboys United "Greatness of Our God" tour, which had been scheduled April 18 at Fair Haven Ministries in Hudsonville.

That was just one of a host of concerts – both Christian and mainstream – postponed or outright cancelled in the effort to fight the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19).

Other entire tours with local stops that were cancelled: Jason Gray and friends Acoustic Stories and Songs (April 24 in Grand Haven), Avalon (April 26 at Remembrance Church in Grand Rapids) and Colton Dixon (April 25 in Muskegon). Because dozens of concerts are included in a single tour, re-scheduling is a monumental task and rarely can all the shows be reset.

Fortunately, the Newsboys United concert has scored a new date – Aug. 29 – in the same venue in Hudsonville (tickets purchased for the April date will be honored at the August show).

THE MID-MARCH DELUGE

Postponements started to cascade in the middle of March, as the actual threat of the virus...well....went viral and spurred action by both local and national authorities.

Lauren Daigle's March 12 sold out concert at Van Andel Arena got in under the wire. Earlier that day the arena's major tenant – the Grand Rapids Griffins – announced its season was postponed indefinitely. Future concerts had already cancelled. (WOOD-TV did a day-of report on it mentioning Daigle online )

Her Van Andel appearance turned out to be Daigle's last stop of the tour, which went on hiatus until April 30 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, inspirational comedian Chonda Pierce's scheduled show in Hudsonville two days later was postponed. It was part of an extended tour for which the plug was pulled on remaining dates.

And locally produced shows/events also started to cancel following state and local guidelines on public gathering size and space. Finally many venues were closed outright. Many churches closed and went "online" or to other alternatives beginning Sunday March 15 and for several weeks following, further shrinking concert opportunities.

Schools and colleges which closed and went to online coursework became questionable as venues themselves. April's scheduled arts events were basically wiped out.

Calvin University's Choral Masterworks concert was moved from April 4 to May 3, then moved again to Nov. 8. Hark Up's annual spring concert (April 19) at GR Christian HS was cancelled.

Calvin's Festival of Faith and Writing Conference was also called off this year.

CHALLENGES OF THE ROAD

Concerts that are not part of larger tours (sometimes called "one-offs") are much easier to reschedule. That was the case with singer-songwriter/worship leader Cory Asbury's April 16 concert at Cornerstone University. The postponement and the rescheduled date (Oct. 29) were announced on the same day.

"Thankfully, it's not something we have to fully rely on financially; it's an auxiliary thing for us," said Asbury, who is worship leader/artist in residence at Radiant Church in the Kalamazoo area.

The co-writer of the modern worship anthem "Reckless Love," Asbury also has a concert set for May 9 at Restore Church in Ionia, which at press time was still on.

For a music artist, cancelling a concert – especially an entire tour - is a financial hit. Band members, stage and transportation workers, merchandise and support crew don't get paid.

MercyMe is a band which had to pull off the road before their tour ended. Lead singer Bart Millard made the point in a recent social media post, after reading comments that bands are "giving in to the spirit of fear" in cancelling shows.

"Let me tell you what the spirit of fear is," he reasoned. "It's when you're afraid to stop the tour because the shows are sold out and it's your biggest source of income for the year. Afraid what the...crew will do when the paychecks aren't coming and there aren't any other tours to join. Afraid of disappointing your fans...

"For me, the moment we decided to halt the tour is the moment we stopped living in fear and chose to believe God will provide."

MAKING IT REAL

Putting a personal face on the spreading virus, veteran Christian singer Sandi Patty announced on March 17 that she has tested positive for COVID-19.
Patty, 63, said she and her husband are now quarantined in their Oklahoma City home. "Thanks for your prayers...be safe everyone...do your part," she said on Instagram.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
About:
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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