Arts & Culture

Pianist Jim Brickman brings virtual tour to Cedar Rapids, with some proceeds going to Paramount

Pianist Jim Brickman will play a live virtual holiday concert Friday night. with a portion of the proceeds going to the
Pianist Jim Brickman will play a live virtual holiday concert Friday night. with a portion of the proceeds going to the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. (Courtesy Jim Brickman)

Thanks to the virus that stole Christmas, Jim Brickman couldn’t do his annual holiday tour.

So the pianist and songwriter found a new way to get around to the cities he’d planned to visit in person over the next month: an online “tour” he’s calling “Comfort & Joy at Home.”

By Christmas, that online tour will have made “stops” in more than 80 places that Brickman would have played, including at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. A portion of ticket proceeds from Friday night’s live concert will benefit the Paramount. The Cedar Rapids concert debuts live at 7 p.m., and the link will be available for 48 hours.

“I wanted to make it as close to what we would be doing as possible and still involve the local theater,” Brickman said in a late-November phone interview.

Virtually simulating the real thing begins with the show’s presentation.

“People are used to seeing me solo, which is why we’re able to do this,” Brickman said. “But I’m not playing the piano from my couch. We have a beautiful set design. It’s basically the same set design that we’d be taking out, done in the studio. It will look beautiful and it will sound beautiful.”

It is critical to bring in the audience, Brickman said, to somehow turn the now-common livestreamed performances into something more than just people sitting at home, watching a screen.

“We’re doing it in a Zoom room, so I can see you and you can see me,” he said. “It’s not a passive show, like a typical streaming show. We’ll interact. You can clap, sing along. Maybe I’ll ask, ‘If you want to hear this song or that song, raise your hand.’ There’s a meet-and-greet afterward where we can talk.”

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Zoom, which will have higher quality audio than, say, a Facebook Live stream, should make Brickman’s show better and more satisfying than the experience of watching the livestreams that have become ubiquitous during the pandemic.

“They all have the same quality to them, whether they’re at home or doing a full show on a stage,” Brickman said. “Doing it this way, you’re doing more shows for fewer people, but it’s a different, better experience. It’s interactive. But because we’re doing it with the community, you might be on with friends, see somebody you know.”

The show will, of course, be made up of Christmas music, combining standards with Brickman’s holiday compositions. However, a standard set list will not be used for every show.

“I’ve been playing these songs for so many years, I have them under my fingers,” he said. “A lot of the original songs I’ve written, if I don’t know them, we’re in trouble. I don’t really practice, maybe a little. I do what comes to me, the vibe that I’m feeling when I’m playing, like what feels right now is something sentimental or the next song should be happy.”

Because the show is on Zoom, only a limited amount of tickets are available.

“Every ticket somebody buys, we send you a Christmas stocking, stuffed with all kinds of good stuff: a CD of music, popcorn, hot chocolate, a ticket to the show, crayons to draw Santa,” he said.

For all of the performances, the sponsoring venues will receive a portion of the proceeds. Brickman is doing his part to support the theaters where he regularly performs, most of which have been shuttered since March.

If there’s a silver lining to moving online, Brickman said, it is that some people who know about him and have considered coming to a concert can buy a ticket for as little as $40 for their family and maybe some friends to see the show.

“I think it grows the audience,” he said. “You have people who may not want to drive down to the (venue), pay a babysitter, go out to dinner, all that stuff, that still might want to see me, hear me. With one ticket per household, they can do it affordably, have five or six people watching, maybe. It’s an opportunity for those who may like Jim Brickman’s music to see the show who might never go out to see it. And if they like it, they might come to see me live next year.”

If you watch

What: Jim Brickman’s “Comfort & Joy at Home” live virtual concert

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When: 7 p.m. Friday, (12/11) with special guests Five for Fighting, John Trones, Kelli O’Hara, Megan Hilty and Adrienne Warren (Broadway’s Tina Turner)

Where: Interactive event via Zoom, with link available for viewing for 48 hours

Tickets: $40 to $125, Creventslive.com/events/veue/paramount-theatre

Extra: Portion of the proceeds benefit Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids

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