SummerFest to be held online only, after COVID-19 surge prevents socially distanced audience from attending

SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The ‘re-imagined’ festival is moving forward with six livestreamed concerts


The La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest has announced its third, cornonavirus-fueled reconfiguration of the past four months, after being postponed for a year in May, then resurrected in a smaller, “re-imagined” form in June. The Aug. 22-26 chamber-music fete will go forward as planned, with six livestreamed concerts, but on Wednesday, Aug. 5, shelved plans to allow a reduced capacity, socially distanced audience to attend.

All concerts will take place in the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the society’s year-old, $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. The seven musicians — down from the several dozen booked for what was originally scheduled to be a 22-day, 18-concert festival — will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. They will also undergo temperature checks each time before being admitted to the venue and adhere to strict health guidelines, as will the director of the livestreamed concerts and the society’s on-site staff.

“We tried to hold out as long as possible to have an audience (attend),” SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan told the Union-Tribune Wednesday, Aug. 5.

“The livestream was always planned, whether we had a live audience or not, because we couldn’t accommodate everybody who wanted to be there in person. So, there’s no change to the concerts, but we won’t be able to have a paying audience in the hall.”

About 60 percent of the SummerFest tickets had been sold and the society anticipated sell-out attendance. But no matter.

“If we could do the SummerFest concerts safely with an audience, we would,” said Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director.

“But with the recent rise in cases in California, we realized it wouldn’t be possible and it wouldn’t be right. So, with heavy hearts, we made our decision.”

The Baker-Baum has a seating capacity of 513. That was reduced to 130 for each of the SummerFest concerts, in order to provide at six feet of distancing between attendees. Tickets, which were priced at $78 and $108, can be exchanged for upcoming 2020/2021 society concerts, or donated or refunded.

Ticket packages for the six livestreamed concerts are still available and are priced at $90. Stream Plus packages, priced at $200, include a $110 tax-deductible gift to help cover the costs associated with livestreaming SummerFest. Packages and more information are available at (858) 459-3728 and at

— George Varga is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune