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La Jolla’s SummerFest to be held online only after coronavirus surge prevents a socially distanced audience

SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan
“We tried to hold out as long as possible to have an audience [attend],” SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan said.
(Hayne Palmour IV / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The ‘reimagined’ festival is moving forward with six livestreamed concerts.

The La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest has announced its third coronavirus-fueled reconfiguration in the past few months.

On Aug. 5, organizers said the Aug. 21-29 chamber music fete will go forward with six livestreamed concerts as planned but that they were shelving plans to allow a reduced-capacity, socially distanced audience to attend. That was after most of the event was postponed for a year in May, then a smaller, “reimagined” form was announced in June.

All concerts will take place in the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the society’s year-old, $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. The seven musicians — down from the several dozen booked for what was originally scheduled to be a 22-day, 18-concert festival — will be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival. They also will undergo temperature checks each time before being admitted to the venue and must adhere to strict health guidelines, as will the director of the livestreamed concerts and the society’s onsite staff.

“We tried to hold out as long as possible to have an audience [attend],” SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan said.

“The livestream was always planned, whether we had a live audience or not, because we couldn’t accommodate everybody who wanted to be there in person. So there’s no change to the concerts, but we won’t be able to have a paying audience in the hall.”

About 60 percent of SummerFest tickets had been sold and the society anticipated sell-out attendance.

“If we could do the SummerFest concerts safely with an audience, we would,” said Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director. “But with the recent rise in [coronavirus] cases in California, we realized it wouldn’t be possible and it wouldn’t be right. So with heavy hearts, we made our decision.”

The Baker-Baum has a seating capacity of 513. That was reduced to 130 for each of the SummerFest concerts to provide at six feet of distancing between guests. Tickets, which were priced at $78 and $108, can be exchanged for upcoming 2020-21 society concerts, or donated or refunded.

Ticket packages for the six livestreamed concerts are priced at $90. Stream Plus packages, priced at $200, include a $110 tax-deductible gift to help cover the costs associated with livestreaming SummerFest.

Packages and more information are available at (858) 459-3728 and ljms.org.

George Varga writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune. La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.