Lynne Rothrock doesn’t mind being a guinea pig, if it means getting music out of her basement and into the virtual world.
The Cedar Rapids singer will be returning to one of her favorite venues Saturday night, to perform with a few friends physically distancing in the Opus Concert Cafe, 119 Third Ave. SE. A viewing link will be posted on her website, Lynnerothrock.com
The room next to the Paramount Theatre’s Hall of Mirrors was a favorite spot for intimate concerts with her husband, Ron DeWitte, a four-time inductee in the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame and a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, who died Feb. 16, 2018.
Rothrock is looking forward to returning to that space — in a manner far different from any kind of concert she’s done before.
“Normally — whatever normal is — I’ve been doing something in Opus in the summer around my birthday, and then a Christmas show” at another venue, Rothrock said. “That’s what I do in Cedar Rapids.”
The versatile vocalist, instructor and musical competition judge typically plies her artistry near and far, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been learning lots of technical gadgetry to be able to work from home. Still, she’s more than happy to leave the big stuff for the concert to Ed Karr, who oversees technical facets for Orchestra Iowa and Opus events, and musician Gerard Estella, who will add his technical mastery to the mix, as well as multiple instruments during the concert.
Other performers include Janelle Lauer on vocals, harmony and solos, Julia Andrews on keyboard and Greg Kanz on percussion.
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For a recent rehearsal, Rothrock cleared out space in the basement of her Cedar Rapids home, to allow all the musicians to grab their masks and rock out at a safe distance. The lineup is smaller than usual, since they also will need to spread out in the Opus space, allowing enough room for all the cameras, sound equipment, extra lighting and personnel needed to stream the concert online — leaving no room for audience members.
That’s another big difference for Rothrock, a concert artist who also has performed as a cabaret chanteuse, where she said the primary goal is “emotional connection with the audience. This often means intimate venues, conversation between songs and, most importantly to me, not having to settle on one style of music. ...
“Generally, if you go to hear a cabaret singer you can expect music that is focused on lyrics and storytelling, rather than rhythmic hooks and lots of instrumentation,” she noted. But she said “concert artist” is a better fit for her, since the term “is a bit more broad and also doesn’t imply intimate venues exclusively.”
She called her song selections for this concert “a mishmash,” with some Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paul Simon, Cole Porter and more from the Great American Songbook, as well as “just a teeny bit of blues” in honor of her late husband. “And Janelle will do something incredibly soulful,” she said.
Rothrock also is known for her sassy repartee, so home viewers will hear a bit of that, as well as see some video clips between segments.
“This will feel different, because there won’t be any audience reaction,” she said. “I’ve joked around that I’m going to assign somebody that it’s their turn to applaud between songs, so that we can keep our self-esteem up.”
In jest, she’s also suggested having an applause track or a laugh track.
‘We’re just diving into the technology full force,” she said.
For several weeks, Orchestra Iowa Maestro Tim Hankewich has been livestreaming his Tuesday “Happy Hour” chats from Opus, so the crew is getting a feel for using the space in the virtual world.
“I’m hopeful others will see that Opus is set up for a pretty slick way to make your music and get it out there with safe parameters,” she said.
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Cost will be by donation, and she’s hoping to bring in enough money so everyone involved will make some money, adding that livestreaming creates the opportunity for reaching a wider audience than a live show at the venue.
“I have friends all over the country,” she said. “Now there’s no excuse — I’m actually coming to your house and doing a concert.”
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How to watch
• What: Lynne Rothrock & Friends: Livestream from Opus Concert Cafe
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; the link will be active afterward, to view anytime
• Where: Link will be posted at lynnerothrock.com
• Cost: Pay what you can, $20 suggested donation