MARION -- As Josh Benson was watching Mark Schultz perform two weeks ago at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center, he knew the writing was on the wall.
"He was literally dousing his hands with sanitizer through the whole show," said Benson, the executive director of the MCCC.
Within days, Illinoisans were being urged to limit group gatherings followed by a mandatory "stay at home" order that shut down all nonessential businesses.
A full schedule at the MCCC was in limbo, with bookings postponed until the nationwide COVID-19 crisis is over.
However, Benson saw a magician friend from New York take his show to the internet.
"I thought to myself that we could do something similar," he said.
By the end of the Schultz performance, Benson had his plan ready.
"The Empty Concert Series" is scheduled to run via Facebook Live on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through at least April 30.
"It gives people something to do," said Benson, "while at the same time supporting local artists whose livelihoods are displaced by the shutdown."
Marion singer/songwriter Eli Tellor opened the series last Thursday, followed by the Johnston City Celtic duo of Roisin Dubh, made up of Les Lannom and me.
Tellor had over 9,000 views as of Saturday. Roisin Dubh's video has just over 5,000, with both still climbing.
"We have to thank this crew, who did just a wonderful job tonight," said Lannom, as the 90-minute show ended.
That crew was nothing short of amazing, as they basically did the equivalent of a live television show, complete with commercial breaks for the sponsors.
Along with Benson, the crew was comprised of Rachel Stroud, Luke O'Neill, Bill Swinford, Riley Swinford, Ross Swinford, and Cam McCurdy.
Everyone there maintained the recommended social distance space during the show.
Benson even set up a virtual tip jar to help support the artists.
Jazz pianist Mel Goot will perform in tonight's concert at 7 p.m.
Viewers can tune in by visiting the Facebook page @MarionCCC.
The Marion Republican will share the schedule on its Facebook page.
Editor's Note: It's not the usual protocol for a reporter to write a story that features herself. However, these are uncharted waters and we are doing our best to maintain the shelter in place and social distancing guidelines.