Free Lunchtime Concerts Starting Soon in Downtown Elkhart

January 09, 2014

Would you enjoy an occasional free noontime concert in downtown Elkhart?

Elkhart leaders plans to launch a free monthly music series beginning later this month.

The performances will be known as “Lunchtime Live,” and will occur — depending on weather — either at the Lerner Theatre or across the street at the Civic Plaza, said David Smith, general manager of the Lerner.

Officials will choose a regular time and day, based on input from downtown merchants, Smith said.

A date for the first show will be announced soon and the frequency of shows could increase if things go well, he said.

“The whole point is to bring people downtown to experience the eateries and some of the merchants,” Smith said after announcing the series at a Lerner Governing Board meeting Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The idea harkens back years ago when a similar program was hosted at the old Elco Theatre, which eventually was renovated and renamed the Lerner.

In October and December, the Lerner hosted three free noontime concerts featuring the music of Celia Weiss on the venue’s fully restored 1924 pipe organ. Those shows attracted between 100 and 200 people with limited promotion and served as a barometer of what could be expected in the future.

The organ, which was installed in 2012, will be spotlighted repeatedly during the series while a variety of musicians — and even possibly some poetry — could be part of the mix, Smith said.

Officials want to use the organ more regularly as a way to keep it in good maintenance, he said.

The noon concert series announcement comes as the city’s SoMa initiative takes root in this year. SoMa — Supporting Our Main Assets — is a broad-based plan to revitalize the downtown through better marketing and coordination along with a more comprehensive effort to attract people to the business district.

A small example of that effort was evident in December when the Lerner prepared coupons for 15 downtown merchants that were then distributed to those who attended one of the shows.

Smith said the coupons were prepared in house and at no cost to the merchants and that reaction from merchants was positive.

Working with merchants just makes good sense, Smith said.

“My goal is to bring the downtown merchants together and create an alliance,” he said.

Smith said he was unsure how many people used the coupons.

That type of promotion may well be used again in the future, he said.

In a related matter, Smith released ArtWalk dates. Those include May 14, July 9, Oct. 8 and Dec. 12.