By Gail McCarthy
---- — The annual free outdoor summer concert series at Stage For Park are under way and celebrating 27 seasons of music.
The summer concerts take place at 7 p.m. Sunday evenings at the Antonio Gentile Bandstand, overlooking scenic Gloucester Harbor. This has been the site of these concerts since its inaugural performance on Fathers Day in 1986 at which the Herb Pomeroy Band performed. Parking is free and the site is handicap-accessible and has rest rooms. All concerts have a rain date of the following Wednesday evening at 7.
In 1986 a small group of dedicated former band students of retired Gloucester High School Band Director Antonio F. Gentile began a modest celebration of annual summer concerts in the park. The shows became known for featuring some of the best local and professional musical entertainers in New England.
This year, two new acts will be performing as well as the Walker Creek Band, a local favorite celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Grupo Fantasia, a popular Latin and world music group.
This Sunday, July 14, features the 20-piece Compaq Big Band, sponsored by Gorton’s of Gloucester. Its big band repertoire honors the classics from the 1930s and 1940s as performed by the bands of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and other greats. The band also honors the great vocalists with vocal numbers such as those made popular by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bobby Darin, Nancy Wilson, Diane Schuur, and others. Their repertoire includes swing numbers from the 1950s and includes music from the bands of Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson.
“They play serious Big Band jazz,” said David Benjamin, the concert manager. “They play challenging music, and this band is always a hit with the local crowd.”
Each year Benjamin tries out something different to see how the crowd reacts. One change in this summer’s lineup came in the wake of the death of a member of the country western John Penny Band.
Community Band seeks players
Benjamin, who is also director of the Cape Ann Community Band, invites local musicians of all ages and abilities to participate in the group.
The band will perform a program titled “The Americana Concert in the Park” on Aug. 18 as part of the Gentile Bandstand concert series. The community band rehearses Monday evenings at the American Legion Hall at 2 Washington St. in Gloucester.
Benjamin said that the band’s first rehearsal last week was one of the best first rehearsals he has had in a long time.
“That’s encouraging. My favorite part is to see the various generations come together to play, and some former students often come in,” said Benjamin, who retired last year after 30 years working in Gloucester’s public schools.
The Americana concert program includes some patriotic music mixed with All-American favorites.
Players are asked to commit to four rehearsals, including the final two on Aug. 5 and 12. The program is geared toward both young and more experienced players. Families are encouraged to participate as well as former and school band members.
“The music represents varying levels of ability, so there’s something for everyone. We’ve always had a lot of fun preparing our concerts. Everyone is learning and enjoying the company of fellow musicians,” he said.
Players need their own instruments. Percussion equipment and stands are provided. This band is sponsored by Bank Gloucester.
Keeping the series going
As part of managing the series, Benjamin said he is seeking donations to support the 27th season. The concerts were initially sponsored by the city, but since 2003, the concerts began to be privately funded by the community.
“I’m grateful to all those who have given in the past. We’ve lined up a terrific season and we need your help. We have an ambitious $20,000 goal for 2013,” he said. “Financial support is the key to the success of the concerts.”
Benjamin noted that online donations are now an option and “you can even scan our QR while listening to the concert.”
Donations may be made out to Cape Ann Community Band, and mailed c/o David Benjamin, 32 Revere St., Gloucester, MA 01930.
For information on the community band and the concert series, contact Benjamin at 978-281-0543 or email@example.com.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show schedule July 21: Overdrive (rhythm and blues with horns). July 28: Honky Tonk Women and Old Cold Tater. Aug. 4: Walker Creek Band. Aug. 11: Grupo Fantasia, (world and Latin music). Aug. 18: Cape Ann Community Band. Aug. 25: Cape Ann Big Band (jazz).