HAMLET — Last September, local country music fans learned Grammy Award-winning star Vince Gill would be headlining the 2015-16 DeWitt Performing Arts Series at Richmond Community College’s Robert L. and Elizabeth Cole Auditorium — but discovered months later that Gill’s concert had been cancelled.
Kathryn Baker of Laurinburg said she and some friends were excited at the chance to watch Gill, live at the Cole, on April 21, 2016.
“We all went together as a group to get our tickets so we could sit together,” she said. “We purchased the tickets and we never found out there wasn’t going to be a concert until the week of the concert. We just found out through word of mouth, through friends, saying, ‘Hey y’all, that concert is not going to be.’”
Baker said she reached out to the Cole Auditorium, but was told only that there would have to be another concert. She said she was never officially notified of the cancellation.
Wylie Bell, assistant director of marketing and communications at RCC, said efforts were made to reschedule Gill’s performance, through an agent the college has used on numerous occasions.
“We were in negotiations with the agent, but that was not forthcoming,” Bell said. “Sometimes performers cancel their shows for various reasons. This is a regrettable situation. In the 16-year history of our performing arts series we’ve never had anyone cancel like this. We are taking every step to make sure our patrons are refunded and to ensure that they enjoy a positive experience at our auditorium.”
Bell indicated that Gill’s representatives countered the Cole’s bid for a new date with an offer to send the country music star as part of The Time Jumpers — a group Gill performs with sometimes.
“There was a change to his performance,” she said. “We were offered a show with The Time Jumpers, but we felt our audience would have been more satisfied with the traditional country music.”
Baker said she and her friends would rather have seen Gill with The Time Jumpers.
“Some kind of concert would have been better than no concert at all, so yes,” she said. “If you look online at Vince Gill’s tour schedule, you will see he was never going to even be in Hamlet. He was in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry on the date he was supposed to be at the Cole.”
Bell said that as soon as they were aware Gill would not be performing as advertised at Cole Auditorium, director Joey Bennett mailed letters to ticket-holders informing them of the last-minute change and promising that refund checks would be in the mail by July 15.
Baker said she never received a letter, and wonders where the money people paid for tickets to the show was kept for so long.
“We think somebody’s got $50,000,” Baker said. “They’ve supposedly sold 1,000 tickets at 50 dollars a head. I feel like we should get our money back, but also, I think they should give us the interest. They kept my money tied up all this time, so there would have been interest.”
Bell said only 113 individual tickets were ever sold for the Vince Gill concert, adding the auditorium sells mostly season tickets. That number of tickets amounts to $5,650. Further, the Cole plans to refund season ticket holders as well as those with Gill-only tickets the full price of $50 per ticket.
But a statement from Gill’s management, The Fitzgerald-Hartley Company, claims no contract — verbal or written — was agreed-upon.
“Regarding our client Vince Gill, there was never a formal offer made, nor any date confirmed with the Dewitt Performing Arts Series(or)Cole Auditorium,” the company said in a statement to the Daily Journal.
“We did not have a written contract,” Bell said. “But we had a verbal contract, which has never been an issue with the agent we were dealing with before. We accepted verbal as equivalent to written. There have been no issues between the Cole Auditorium and the agent because of this. Sometimes performers cancel shows and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.