Duke Performances’ outdoor concerts are a hallmark of summer in Durham. Anyone who has attended one knows that live music sounds particularly special from the vantage point of a blanket in a garden. Even when a summer rain sweeps through—as sometimes happens—it lends the experience a touch of risky summer magic. 

Needless to say, though, COVID-19 has altered plans for this tradition, as it has many summer staples (see: Bulls games). But even though Music in the Gardens won’t take place literally in Duke Gardens this year, Eric Oberstein, who continues as the interim director of Duke Performances until Bobby Asher takes over in the fall, says that in moving the concerts online, the organization sought a way to capture the spirit of the series. 

“Music in the Gardens is a longtime tradition of the organization,” Oberstein says. “We obviously can’t do that in-person this summer, with events being canceled on campus. But because it’s so beloved among our community, we didn’t want to just not do anything.” 

Music in Your Gardens, the free, eight-week virtual concert series that Duke Performances announced today, sticks close to home with a robust schedule of Triangle heavyweights, including Hiss Golden Messenger, Shirlette Ammons, and H.C. McEntire. Each artist will pre-record an intimate set from their own garden and accompany the Wednesday viewing with a live YouTube chat to answer questions from viewers. 

“We’re doing socially distant recordings,” Oberstein says. “So we’re making sure everyone is completely safe and healthy, and we’ll be using long camera lenses and making sure no one is near one another. But essentially, these are very intimate performances.” 

While Music in the Gardens performances normally have a small door price, Oberstein says that the Music in Your Garden virtual performances will all be free, in order to keep the tradition accessible to the community. All participating artists will still be paid for performances. 

Another bonus? You may be able to get a little peek at the flowers and veggies your favorite Triangle artists are growing, while you’re at it. 

You can find the full list of performances below, and access the first performance on June 24 at 7 p.m. here

June 24: Rissi Palmer

July 1: Hiss Golden Messenger

July 8: Skylar Gudasz

July 15: Shirlette Ammons

July 22: H.C. McEntire

July 29: Joe Troop

August 5: Kamara Thomas

August 12: Young Bull


Contact deputy arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at sedwards@indyweek.com.

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