CHAUTAUQUA - Chautauqua Institution will soon awaken from months of relative peace and quiet to come alive for the nine-week 2012 season. The Institution's open-air, 5,000-seat Amphitheater will host a variety of acts as part of the Popular Entertainment Series, and Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming, believes this year's lineup compares favorably with that of one year ago.
"I think it's very diverse," he said. "I think there's something for everybody. When you look at the styles of music, we've covered a lot of them. If somebody can't find something they enjoy, I don't think there's any pleasing them."
The 2012 Popular Entertainment Series will feature performances by k.d. lang, Diana Krall, Vince Gill, The Temptations and The Four Tops, Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, Bill Medley from The Righteous Brothers with Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, Straight No Chaser, Roger Hodgson, and others. Tickets for all of the Popular Entertainment Series shows go on sale Monday.
Chautauqua Institution’s Popular Entertainment Series will feature nationally known artists on Friday nights and Saturdays this summer.
The Amphitheater attracted capacity crowds in 2011 for shows featuring Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Beach Boys, Alison Krauss and Straight No Chaser. In 2012, the results could be similar. When Merkley books evening entertainment acts, he thinks about selling single tickets to citizens of the Chautauqua County, Buffalo and Erie areas, while also focusing on what Chautauquans like and the quality of the performers.
Merkley knows some of this summer's shows will be of greater interest to Chautauquans than to area residents. The live taping of NPR's "From The Top" with host Christopher O'Riley on July 20 falls into that group. For many of the other shows, Merkley expects a good turnout from the surrounding communities.
"You get into Bill Medley from The Righteous Brothers and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, The Temptations and The Four Tops, these are iconic entertainers who I think appeal across the board to a lot of people," he said. "People say that you're only as successful as your next show, but for me, I'm only as successful as my next season. I think this is very much equatable to what we did in the 2011 season. We had excellent attendance. We had many sellouts. I think we have the same potential this year."
Vocal group Under The Streetlamp will kickstart the Popular Entertainment Series on June 23, playing American radio classics. On June 29, Medley and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap will take the Amphitheater stage. Medley sings hits "Unchained Melody," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "You're My Soul and Inspiration," and "The Time of My Life." Gary Puckett and The Union Gap will return to Chautauqua with hits "Young Girl," "This Girl Is A Woman Now," "Woman Woman" and "Over You."
Krall, a Grammy Award and Juno Award winner, will bring jazz to the Amphitheater on July 6. Yarrow and Stookey will return to the Amphitheater to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of their group - Peter, Paul and Mary - on July 27. The group made its name with hits "Puff, The Magic Dragon," "Blowin' in the Wind" and "If I Had a Hammer."
"That's always a very popular concert," Merkley said of the Yarrow and Stookey show. "People love to bring their children and their grandchildren to hear their songs. Everybody knows the songs; everybody can sing along."
The Temptations and The Four Tops will perform Aug. 3, and Lang, a multi-time Grammy and Juno award winner, will bring her diverse musical talents to the Amphitheater stage Aug. 10.
Gill, a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, returns to Chautauqua on Aug. 17. He has amassed 21 Grammy Awards and 18 CMA Awards. He has sold 26 million albums worldwide.
A cappella ensemble Straight No Chaser is slated for an Aug. 24 show, and Hodgson, the voice of Supertramp, will close out the Popular Entertainment Series on Aug. 25.
"It's amazing the calls we're getting about Roger Hodgson," Merkley said. "He has not been around in the United States in a while. The people who know him and the Supertramp sound are just gnashing at the teeth to buy tickets."
Supertramp hits include "Give a Little Bit," "The Logical Song," "Dreamer," "Take the Long Way Home," "Breakfast in America," "It's Raining Again," "School" and "Fools Overture." The band has sold more than 60 million albums.
Tickets for the above shows are $40. They can be purchased on chqtickets.com or by calling 357-6250, beginning Monday.
The Amphitheater, built in 1893, offers concert-goers a unique experience, much like the Institution itself does, according to Merkley.
"It's a very different building than any place else pretty much in the country, let alone in the area," he said. "You're under a roof, but you're still outside. It's the largest venue in the area, but it has an intimate feel. You feel like you step back in time a little bit when you walk to the Amphitheater. It's unusual, it's unique and it's in our own backyard."