‘Music in the Museum’ a success for Lightner, St. Augustine Orchestra

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The Lightner Museum was alive with the sounds of the season Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11-12, when the St. Augustine Orchestra performed holiday favorites for visitors during “Music in the Museum: Holiday Nights at the Lightner.”

Visitors had an opportunity to enjoy the music while touring the iconic St. Augustine institution, shopping for unique holiday gifts and sampling wine out on the terrace.

“We’ve never done something like this before,” said Angela de Gregory, the museum’s volunteer coordinator and events manager. “Typically, the orchestra plays in a very traditional setting where you have chairs lined-up theater-style.”

But concerns about COVID-19 have made that impossible.

“They still wanted to play, and we still wanted them here,” de Gregory continued. “But we had to come up with a solution where they could do it safely.”

By having the orchestra perform in different ensembles at different places throughout the Lightner, social distancing could be maintained. In addition, having the entire museum open for guests gave them space to spread out. Masks were required.

The idea proved a success. The ticketed event was sold out both evenings, with 175 guests each night.

The orchestra’s brass ensemble performed in the grand lobby, the string ensemble performed in the former pool area and the woodwind ensemble performed in one of the gallery spaces. Performance times were staggered so that visitors could attend each.

For some, the event represented the first time since the museum reopened in May that they could see the changes made last spring. During a two-month closure necessitated by COVID-19, the entire first floor was repainted and refloored, new restrooms were constructed and a lot of plumbing and electrical work was done.

Rota, the taxidermied lion once owned by Winston Churchill was spruced up. A new, 188-square-foot mural by Jacksonville artist Joshua Cooper decorated a wall in one of the display areas. And the new gift shop was decked out in holiday style.

Guests had an opportunity to see the museum’s newest exhibit, “Illuminate: Lightner Museum’s Stained Glass Rediscovered,” which features 12 newly restored stained-glass windows and a dragonfly lamp by Tiffany Studios.

Visitors also marveled at the newly repaired, 2,500-pound grandfather clock, which features detailed carvings that describe a fairy tale about Dick Whittington, a mayor of London in the 18th century. Visitors also made a point to stop by the dazzling American Brilliant Cut Glass exhibit.

In addition, many took the opportunity to wander about the courtyard, which is normally closed after dark.

For those who were unable to attend “Music in the Museum” but who would like to see what’s new – and not so new – the Lightner is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For further information, go to lightnermuseum.org.

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