Music returning to Brucemore courtyard after the storm

Brucemore's 1912 carriage house site, still littered with some storm debris on Aug. 13, is being spruced up so performer
Brucemore’s 1912 carriage house site, still littered with some storm debris on Aug. 13, is being spruced up so performers and audience members can maintain a safe distance for two rotating Concerts in the Courtyard. The music begins Thursday and continues weekends through Sept. 19. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Brucemore’s landscape is forever changed, but the Aug. 10 raging storm couldn’t ravage the spirit of the historic estate.

With staff and volunteers powering through the debris from 40 to 50 century-old sentinels and “hundreds” of younger trees damaged by the derecho’s hurricane-force winds — the shows will go on.

Thursday begins a weekend rotation of Concerts in the Courtyard, one featuring music from Broadway to coffee shops, the other flashing back to ’70 and ’80s grooves. The first weekend, as well as several other performances are sold out, but tickets are available for the remainder of the series through Sept. 19.

“With all of the challenges this summer, our motto has been, ‘If we can hold programming safely and there’s interest, then we’ll continue to find a way,’” said Tara Richards, Brucemore’s director of community engagement. “This took on a new meaning with the storm. We were actually loading in the tech equipment that Monday, right before the storm hit.”

The crew and the staff at the Carriage House took shelter in that basement, while other staff members at the mansion sheltered over there. The next day, Richards said they spoke with Gerard Estella, Brucemore’s artist-in-residence and the concert planner, who had been in contact with the musicians. They decided to wait a few days to see how the community’s recovery was progressing and assess what it would take to reschedule the performances.

A week later, they walked the areas critical for entering, exiting and staging the concerts, seeing what would need to be cleared for safety’s sake. They decided as long as the participants were still onboard, they would push onward, Richards said.

A big consideration, she added, was viewing this as a way to support the arts and cultural community still struggling in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns.


“We saw an opportunity to give the talent a chance to perform their passion — that they’ve already invested time and effort in rehearsing and song selection — and to give the businesses that we rent equipment from a little glimmer of hope,” she said.

Ticket holders were understanding when told the first weekend, Aug. 13 to 16, was canceled, and that staff was evaluating the future of the programming, Richards said. “People were going through their own issues at home, recovering, as well,” she noted.

In the next wave of contacts, she said people were “overwhelmingly surprised to hear that we were able to move forward. They started to hear about the devastation and the damage that we’d had, and most at that point just thought there’s no way. But beyond that, with our general community support,” they were hearing that “people really want to sit back and listen to music and have a night where they can safely focus away from COVID and the storm, and unwind.”

Concert details

Patrons who are used to attending 20 years of Cabaret in the Courtyard will see a different setup, in light of physical distancing measures in line with pandemic protocols.

Whereas Cabaret could accommodate 300 or more people per night, this concert series will be limited to just 18 tables of up to four people per party. Brucemore will provide the tables and chairs, and patrons are invited to bring their own snacks and beverages, including beer and wine, to share only among their tablemates. The shows last 90 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission, and restrooms will be open.

Masks are mandatory, but may be removed at the tables, and hand sanitizer will be available. Performers also will be at least 12 feet away from the audience when performing with masks removed.

The first concert, “Unforgettable & Unplugged,” features music from Broadway to coffee shop fare, with singers Jackson Bartelme, Lacie De Souza, Alicia Monee, Tim Riven and Joe Wetrich and band members Lincoln Ginsberg, Greg Kanz and Gerard Estella. This weekend is sold out, but tickets remain for the Sept. 10 to 12 performances.

The other concert, “Hair & Product,” turns the spotlight on iconic tunes from the ’70s and ’80s, performed by singers Anna Wilde, Lacie De Souza, Staisha Federick, Scott Dix and Jared Rogers, with band members Dave Nanke, Jim Coates, Jeremiah Murphy and Gerard Estella. Sept. 3 to 5 shows are sold out, but tickets remain for Sept. 6 and 17 to 19.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 7 p.m. for on-site parking, and vehicles will enter through the gates off Linden Drive, then exit via Dows Lane.

Storm damage

The grounds are closed to the public, except for concertgoers. Those audiences will see a very different landscape, with tree debris lining the lanes, and so much destruction to the trees, gardens and parts of all seven buildings on the historic estate. Half of the Linden gate was torn off, trees are uprooted, broken or shredded, and tarp covers some of the structural damage, with the 1915 Lord & Burnham Greenhouse sustaining the hardest blows. But the statuary around the pond and elsewhere on the estate remained mostly untouched.

Several insurance adjusters will visit the site and assess the damage in the weeks ahead, Richards noted.

“We have two insurance policies — one through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who owns the estate, to cover the structures and items owned by them; and one to cover the equipment and items owned by Brucemore Inc., the nonprofit responsible for operating the organization,” she said.

“We estimate the property damage will be in excess of $1 million, but we don’t know to what extent the trees and landscape features will be covered.”

Insurance won’t cover everything, she added.

“We will have to look for ways to cover the deductibles and any expenses not covered by insurance. This will include seeking emergency funding, applying for grants, fundraising, and looking for ways to adjust our operating budget, which has already been tightened due to COVID.

“We will use some of the Pride & Preservation campaign funding to help cover recovery costs associated with the landscape.”

And in an initiative announced Monday, David Maier and Matthew McGrane, who live in the neighborhood, will match every $1 donated by new donors to the Pride & Preservation campaign up to $25,000 through the end of September.

“We’re extremely grateful for that,” Richards said. “Part of the campaign funding was going to be for the landscape anyway. Now, any gifts that come in as part of this match will be earmarked for the recovery effort. And eventually, our end goal will be planting more trees and trying to grow the property back into what it was before.”

Comments: (319) 368-8508;

If you go

What: Music in the Courtyard


Where: Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids

“Unforgettable and Unplugged”: Broadway to coffee shop music; 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 to 30 SOLD OUT; tickets available 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 to 12

“Hair plus Product”: Flashback to the ’70s and ’80s; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 to 5 SOLD OUT; tickets available 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 and 17 to 19

Tickets: $100 per table (seats up to four people); $20 discount per table for Brucemore members;

• Parking: Gate opens at 7 p.m., enter from Linden Drive, exit via Dows Lane; parking on site, not along Dows Lane

Safety measures: Bring own snacks and beverages for your table only; masks required except at your table; social distancing required

Details: For concert information as well as the new matching grant for landscape recovery, go to

Video: To see Brucemore Executive Director David Janssen give an overview of the estate’s storm damage, go to

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