2 weeks. 4 shows. Nirvana for Delaware’s live music fans

The Grand Opera House brings live music to Wilmington this July with the area’s first-ever drive-in concert

The next two weeks offer little slices of heaven for Delaware live music lovers of all kinds.

OperaDelaware brings back its parking lot arias. The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival and all-women all-the-time Ladybug Festival both go online. Topping it off will be a new offering from The Grand: Live music in your car at Frawley Stadium.

Best of all for those not living in the curve at the top of Delaware: No travel. Both the Clifford Brown and Ladybug festivals usually demand your presence in person. 

This year, you can watch no matter where you are in Delaware (and the world) and if that’s home, you’re only steps from your grub, drinks and personal potty. 


No sunscreen, bug spray or elbowing through crowds to stake out a place is required.

The shows are a win-win-win for the producers, performers and audience. It allows them all to offer entertainment, puts a little jingle in everybody’s pockets and moves us all one step closer to normalcy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OperaDelaware goes outside. Photo by Angie Harvey

‘Drive-through’ arias

“We are all desperately missing live music,” said Brendan Cooke, executive director of OperaDelaware. Its annual spring festival was axed, affecting the income of the institution and its performers. 

“Although we’d much rather be in the Grand Opera house with a full cast, chorus and orchestra, that’s just not in the cards for now,” Cooke said. 

Instead, performers will sing from the stairs on the outside of OperaDelaware’s building at 4 S. Poplar Street in Wilmington Tuesday and Wednesday at 6 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. Patrons sit in their cars. The first round of performances was well received. 


“These short ‘drive-through’ concerts are a great way for opera lovers to get their live music fix,” Cooke said. “And it’s a terrific opportunity for those who want to give opera a try.”

The shows run 20 to 25 minutes and cost $25 per car. Buy them here: https://operade.secure.force.com/ticket. Some shows are sold out. Bathrooms will not be available.

Jazz the old way. The 33rd Clifford Brown Jazz Festival moves online this week.

80 jazz artists online

While the city of Wilmington’s Clifford Brown Jazz Festival usually brings hundreds of fans and their lawn chairs to Rodney Square, this year it brings dozens of performers into your home Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“With many artists struggling to make ends meet and the health risks that are currently inherent in large public gatherings, this year’s live-streamed Clifford Brown Jazz Festival employs more than 80 artists and allows our community — in fact, the world — the opportunity to safely enjoy this decades-long important Wilmington tradition,” said Tina Betz, director of the city’s office of cultural affairs.

This will be the 33rd running of the festival, named for trumpeter Clifford Brown. A Wilmington native, he died in 1956 in a car accident.


The lineup features local and regional acts:

Wednesday, preshow, 7 pm – Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency Program

Thursday, 7 pm – Arturo Stable Quartet; 8:10 p.m., Sharon Sable Quintet; 9:20 p.m., Cintron

Friday,  7 pm – Gerald Chavis Quintet; 8:05 p.m., Mike Boone Quartet; 9:10 p.m., Barbara Walker; 10:15 p.m. Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead

Saturday, 3 pm – Vertical Current; 4:05 pm, Voices for Healing with Raye Jones Avery; 4:55 p.m., Terra Soul Project; 6 pm, Dennis Fortune; 7:05 pm, The Whitney Project; 8:10 pm, Korey Riker Band; 9:15 pm, Fostina Dixon & the Winds of Change; 10:30 pm, Jeff Bradshaw Band.

For more, go to www.cliffordbrownjazzfest.com.

The virtual festival is free, but organizers are encouraging donations to Cityfest, Inc. That nonprofit will use some of the money to establish a COVID-19 Relief Fund to help musicians affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Wilmington’s Ladybug Music Festival leaves the streets for computer and phone screens this week. Photo by Moonloop Photography.

Ladybug concerts go digital

The all-women Ladybug concerts that have drawn national attention move from the streets to a screen near you on June 29 and 30.

This year planners have snagged a very big name as host of their first-ever virtual event:  MTV host and BETV ambassador Jamilla Mustafa, whose hashtags could have been written for all-female concert – #allwomen #allpower #allmusic.

Jamilla Mustafa will host the Ladybug Music Festival

The concerts, begun as an adjunct to the massive Firefly concert in Dover (hence the bug name),  grew from a few shows to a full-fledged festival of many acts in a two-night event in Wilmington and two-day event in Milford, both attended by hundreds. 

Now, it’s going online with more than 50 artists from around the country, including Larkin Poe from Nashville, Tennessee; K.T. Tunstall from Los Angeles; and Vanessa Carleton of Nashville and New York City.


“We can’t wait to deliver this experience to Ladybug fans, old and new,” said Gayle Dillman, co-founder of Gable Music Ventures LLC. “We’ve worked so hard to pull this together and are so excited to reach so many more viewers in this new digital format

The lineup will have something for everyone, including RAE and the inspirational thoughts of four-time Gold Medalist Heather Mitts as well as yoga, cooking demonstrations and more. 

Tickets can be purchased at theladybugfestival.com for $20. A portion of the proceeds will go to Downtown Visions and Sweet Relief.

The Rock Orchestra will perform at The Grand’s Concert by Car concert on July 3

Park yourself at Frawley Stadium for live music

Car jams will take on a whole new meaning July 3 when The Grand debuts a new drive-in concert series, Concerts by Car, in the main parking lot of Frawley Stadium.

And it already looks like a hot ticket. As of Monday afternoon, the event had sold enough spaces for 170 cars and was expanding the number of parking spaces available.

Patrons will park at the baseball stadium on the Wilmington Riverfront and tune into a live performance of Delaware’s Rock Orchestra playing The Very Best of The Beatles. Those who go will be able to tune in on their car radios. 


“It feels really good for all of us at The Grand to be presenting a show again after such a long hiatus!” said executive director Mark Fields. “This is what we do and it’s what our patrons and the public expect. We’re really looking to see an audience again, though in very different circumstances than usual.”

The Rock Orchestra is a collective of musicians who perform note-for-note tribute concerts to the music of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, The Who and more. One of its most well-known feats was BeatleFest, during which they performed all 215 Beatles songs over six nights.

Tickets are $25 per person per car, plus fees. Get them by calling The Grand Box Office at 302-652-5577 or online at www.TheGrandWilmington.org


Some guidelines: Tickets must be bought in advance. Spots cannot be reserved. No bathrooms will be available. Masks must be worn when outside the car. Organizers hope patrons will stay in their cars, but also may sit in chairs next to the car. There will be no concessions. Alcohol is prohibited.

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Betsy Price

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