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The Sheridan Opera House is offering free après ski concerts through the end of March at the SHOW Bar. (Courtesy photo) 

The historic Sheridan Opera House has been a beacon of live entertainment at the beginning of Main Street for over 100 years. From the rowdy days of the Wild West to prohibition, the building has seen and endured a lot. Unfortunately, this past year has been one of the harder ones in recent memory, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the opera house to close. 

The live music industry has been devastated by the pandemic, with many smaller spaces around the country closing permanently. 

“The impact of such a collapse could be culturally devastating. Unlike restaurants or shops, a small or medium-sized music venue is more than just a business serving its customers. They are living, breathing mini-institutions in their own right, each one with its own unique capacity to incubate local bands and artists, host touring ones and connect them all to the communities of like-minded show attendees that these spaces attract,” NPR’s John Paul Titlow wrote in a piece last summer.

But the opera house pushed forward in switching to livestreaming whenever possible, including Young People’s Theater productions that featured smaller casts of students, and there are plans open the space to limited in-person capacity sooner rather than later.  

“Throughout the pandemic, we safely held Young People’s Theater rehearsals and produced three musicals with reduced casts of 10 children.  This spring we will be producing two high school musicals with small casts and an audience limited to 50 people,” Sheridan Arts Foundation Executive Director Ronnie Palamar said of the upcoming “Tuck Everlasting” April 2-3, and “Cinderella” April 30 and May 1.

But you don’t have to wait until then to get your live entertainment fix. The opera house recently announced a series of free après ski concerts in the space’s SHOW Bar through the end of March. This weekend will feature the local act Tom & Wyatt Variety on Friday and Chuck Hank on Saturday. All concerts are from 4-6 p.m. 

“Tom Nading and Wyatt Listrom started making music together in 2010. After a decade of various bands, lineups, side projects and one-offs, the duo’s set is a collection of songs and ideas, delivered with the synergy they've developed along the way. As they pass songs back-and-forth, harmonize vocals, and trade guitar solos, who knows where we'll end up,” according to an opera house news release. “Playing genres ranging from jazz and hip-hop to rock and bluegrass, Durango's Chuck Hank is breaking boundaries while keeping the vibes smooth. The bassist for High Country Hustle and PJ Moon and The Swappers creates a diverse live looping set full of innovative originals, classic covers and wild improvisation.” 

The series concludes March 26-27 with The Buzz. 

“Based out of Longmont, The Buzz is a funk-jam-psychedelic five-piece project. These musicians have some seriously tasty groove-based improvisation jams, soaring guitar leads, and thunderous, soulful vocals. Every Buzz show is a funky and powerful live experience. They have a solid following in the Denver and Boulder areas, and they love to show up for the band. We’d love to expand our fan base to the Telluride community,” according to the release. 

The après shows are part of the opera house’s plans to reopen under changing public health guidelines heading into the summer season, which should return to a more normal schedule, Palamar explained. 

“We are slowly and carefully reopening the historic Sheridan Opera House as the summer approaches, following the county and Colorado CDC restrictions regarding safety and capacity limitations. We will continue to provide outdoor music on our patio throughout the summer,” she said. “We are very excited to bring back our quality music and plan to offer intimate seated concerts throughout the summer, and moving into the fall and winter season. The Telluride Plein Air will return this summer over the Fourth of July weekend. The opera house is also open at a limited capacity for rentals, and we are accepting summer booking consistent with county and CDC restrictions.”

While it’s been “challenging,” as Palamar has described the past year, the opera house staff is ready to welcome back its community of music lovers, thespians and performers.

“Business as usual,” she said when asked what she’s most looking forward to post-pandemic, “and anticipating a strong demand for the return of our popular sellout concerts, New Year's Eve celebration, our comedy festival and more.”

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