Summer concert series’ 35th season takes place in cyberspace

Written By Tracy Fields
July 7, 2020 at 3:54 PM

The husband-and-wife team of Alvaro Bermudez and Misty Leah Bermudez will present “Classic Latin Love Songs & Melodies” on July 16. (Photos courtesy of Community Arts Program)

The shows must go on, pandemic notwithstanding.

Since 1985, the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ has presented a series of biweekly concerts each summer. Music-lovers have gathered in the intimate sanctuary of the historic church, across from The Biltmore Hotel, to hear jazz and classical music.

They won’t this summer, thanks to COVID-19. But they’ll still be able to enjoy the concerts – virtually.

“After 34 years, we could not just have a gap,” said Mark Hart, executive and artistic director of the church’s Community Arts Program (CAP). “We had to keep it going, we had to keep the tradition going.”

This year, the series returns to its roots. The six concerts, which run weekly from July 9 through Aug. 13, feature local artists. The first is Shelly Berg, acclaimed pianist and dean of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, who will play some of his best-loved jazz and classical pieces in a performance entitled, “My Favorite Things!”

One week later, the married duo of Misty Leah Bermudez and Alvaro Bermudez present “Classic Latin Love Songs & Melodies.” He will accompany his mezzo-soprano wife on guitar, doing songs from the early and middle part of the last century that originated in places including Mexico, Cuba and Ecuador.

Then, on July 23, it’s “Oscar Meets Ella,” with pianist Zach Bartholomew’s trio, featuring vocalist Linda Alvarado. They’ll do the music of pianist Oscar Peterson and singer Ella Fitzgerald with help from bassist Gary Thomas and Lucas Apostoleris on drums.

The 5 String Swing Trio – violinist Steffen Zeichner, pianist Derek Fairholm and bassist Benjamin Whitman – team up with violinist and vocalist Nicole Yarling on July 30 for an evening of tunes from “The Great American Songbook.”

Yarling said she’s been adjusting to this new style of living and performing, high-tech and low-touch, since the pandemic reached South Florida.

Threefold features saxophonist Mark Small, pianist Martin Bejerano and guitarist John Hart. (Photos courtesy of Community Arts Program)“It’s kooky. This is like every sci-fi movie I’ve ever watched, you know those movies where there’s an outbreak of something,” she said. “I certainly never imagined this in my lifetime.”

Without the audience present, she says, her performances nowadays are more about interaction with her fellow musicians.

Virtual showgoers will be able to focus on that as well, and Hart hopes the concerts will be a source of joy and relaxation.

“We’re all dealing with enough stress,” he said. “This is just a time for people to tune in and sit back and spend time with some great artists.”

The concert on Aug. 6 has a single star: violinist Scott Flavin, who will present “One Voice,” with music from Europe, the African Diaspora and the United States.

The series is scheduled to conclude on Aug. 13 with a centennial tribute to pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. It’ll be presented by Threefold, which includes saxophonist Mark Small, pianist Martin Bejerano and guitarist John Hart.

Each free, 60-minute concert is set to start at 7:30 p.m. and will be available on CAP’s Facebook page at or its website at

“People are welcome to make donations to help engage the artists and the tech team making this possible,” Mark Hart says.

He hopes people will invite family and friends from everywhere to enjoy this year’s concerts together – sort of – and is excited about the chance to make new fans for the series. It’s just part of CAP’s year-round work of providing music education to young people in South Florida.

“The great thing about this year is that we’re also able to tell our story to the world,” he said. “That’s the silver lining in all of this.”

What: 2020 Virtual Summer Concert Series, presented by the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ 

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, through Aug. 13

Where: or

Cost: Free, but donations are welcome

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