As the weather has turned colder, the River Music Experience is working to warm some hearts, building on the success of its 2020 Curbside Concerts by launching holiday Curbside Carols for December.

Executive director Tyson Danner said Friday there have been nearly 200 curbside concerts since the spring, where local musicians went out

Tyson Danner is executive director of RME.

to private homes and neighborhoods in the area (within a 10-mile radius of RME in downtown Davenport) and played for about a half hour, for a suggested donation of $60.

That will return next spring, because they don’t want to do any indoor performances yet, he said. “We thought a caroling program would be a really good way to have some winter activity, without taking too much risk.”

The carols are seeking $75 per time (about 15-20 minutes), Danner said.

The original idea was to come to give a private concert in a yard or driveway, “but what we saw happening was a lot of neighborhoods getting together for one,” he said, noting some people pooled for one-hour concerts.

“We had lots of them, where there were 20 or 30 people spread out across a cul-de-sac or somebody’s front yard. It made a lot of sense when we thought of doing this caroling program that hey, we’ll go around to your whole neighborhood,” Danner said.

Curbside Carols will launch outdoors in December.

The carols will be sung by a group of (about five) RME staff, board members and friends, he said. “For the neighborhood carols, we’re thinking if you buy carols for your neighborhood, they’ll wind up joining us from house to house and wind up touring around the neighborhood.”

“The nice thing about a group sing is, we can wear masks and sing and not worry about being heard,” he said, noting that would help people keep warm. “It’s actually a nice time to wear mask, because it’s cold out.”

They will mix more modern popular Christmas songs, with more traditional carols, Danner said. People can order Curbside Carols from http://rivermusicexperience.org/Upcoming-Events/Curbside-Concerts.

“I have a feeling they’re gonna fill up pretty quickly, because we have pretty limited spots,” he said. “I tell folks to go ahead and sign up ASAP if they want a spot. They’re broken out by city.”

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Curbside Carols are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout December, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The times available: 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 7:00 and 7:30 — each stop will take approximately 15-20 minutes (4-5 songs). One day each week will be in Iowa, and one day will be in Illinois.

Upon signup, there is a $75 suggested minimum donation, with the option to add-on an additional donation. The dates and locations are:

  • 1 – Downtown & West Davenport(west of Brady St. to I-280, and south of I-80 to River Drive)
  • 2 – Rock Island
  • 8 – East Moline & Silvis
  • 9 — East Village & Central Davenport (east of Brady St. to I-74, south of Kimberly Rd.)
  • 15 – Downtown & Central Bettendorf(south of Tanglefoot Lane/Crow Creek Road)
  • 16 – Moline
  • 22 – North Davenport & North Bettendorf (north of Kimberly Rd. to I-80 and east of US-61 to Criswell St.)

The neighborhood carols will feature 45 minutes spreading cheer for you and your neighbors, singing a song or two in front of each house with their front lights on. Those times available will be Saturdays, Dec. 5, 12, and 19 at 4 p.m., 5:15 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.

Upon signup, there is a $200 suggested minimum donation, with the option to add-on an additional donation. The neighborhood sign-ups can be in any locations throughout the Quad-Cities (within a 10-mile radius of Downtown Davenport).

An example of a curbside concert this past spring.

After you register, RME staff will be in touch within two business days to share specific event information and guidelines. The safety guidelines from RME include:

  • The safety of the audience and musicians is our top priority. At this time, only outdoor locations are allowed.
  • Our musicians will wear masks when not actively performing. We encourage you and your guests to wear masks when you are not able to maintain 6 feet of social distance between each group.
  • Please provide a space for the musicians to perform that is at least 12 feet from where the audience will be seated. (That’s about 4 guitar lengths!) This will protect both the musicians and the audience members.
  • Please help keep our musicians safe by respecting their distance. We want to shake your hand and give you a hug, too! But a friendly wave or an air-high-five will have to do for now.

The RME (at 2nd and Main streets) is nearing the end of its fall fundraising campaign (they’ve raised $20,000 so far), and the Curbside Carols will help achieve that goal.

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“It’s an important part of the mixture,” Danner said. “The next year, there’s a lot of big question marks for all of us – especially those of us who are in performing arts. It’s really hard to predict how the next year is gonna go, but things are looking OK so far. Curbside Concerts was a really big part of our financial health over the summer, because not only were we doing our mission, but we were getting donations through that program, and we figure Curbside Carols will do the same thing.”

RME has received $10,000 in matching funds, so will exceed $30,000 raised by the end of the month. You can donate by visiting http://rivermusicexperience.org/donate.

“People have been really generous with helping spread the word about what we’re doing, but also making donations to support it, making sure we can stick around through all this craziness,” Danner said. “In the spring, we’re hoping to bring the regular Curbside Concerts program back again. Even more than the income, it’s kept us out there. It’s given people the chance to hear live music in person, which is now a rarity, unless you’re comfortable going to some of the venues that are presenting it.”

“We actually wound up performing live music for more people over the summer, with Curbside Concerts, than we usually do with Redstone Room shows,” Danner said. “We’re spreading live music to more people now than we were before, which is pretty cool – because that is something we did not see coming.”

“The question is, over the next year or so, as things do get back to normal, how do we keep doing these new exciting things we’ve discovered, and bring back in the more traditional things – and still have the time to do it?” he asked. “We’re hoping to keep it all going.”

The RME website says: “2020 has been challenging for us all, and live music is no exception. With most of our usual financial support ‘on pause,’ this fundraiser provides crucial, needed funding to maintain our community programs that bring music to more than 30,000 kids and adults all year long.”

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.