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Feel The beat

BPL concert series brings Boston together

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO

At 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, the Boston Public Library is pulsating with music and energy. Inside the Instagram-worthy outdoor courtyard, Jessenia Moreira croons along to the tunes of jazz sextet Moody Street Sound. Polished professionals in crisp suits stop in for a listen on their lunch breaks, while families gather with young children to enjoy the free event. Listeners lounge on the steps of the courtyard, sip coffee at tables, or read on the benches around the space. This relaxed atmosphere is exactly what Rebecca Campbell, the Adults Program Librarian in charge of the concerts, was hoping for. She says, “Libraries are becoming community gathering places and art acts as the bridge connecting patrons of all ages and backgrounds.”

The Courtyard Concert series is hosted in the BPL Central courtyard twice a week, once at lunchtime and once in the evening. Campbell designed the concerts to include a variety of instruments and music styles, but the performers all have local ties to Boston. Moody Street Sound hails from Lowell, where the group met during their time at the University of Massachusetts. Not only does this give library patrons a fun, free way to connect with the arts, it gives local musicians the opportunity to perform for a diverse crowd in a well-known venue.

The courtyard is always a place of refuge for Bostonians, but with the concert in full swing it transforms into a European-style escape. Time slows down, even for a city of people known for impatient driving and a go-go-go mentality. Campbell says, “Libraries, in general, are perfect venues for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the McKim building courtyard is simply magical.”

The concert series is one of the better-known public events put on by the BPL, but they also host lectures, classes and talks on a regular basis. During the summer of 2015, the library hosted 26 concerts with a total attendance of 5,169, an attendance rate by almost 20 percent higher than 2014. Over the next two months the concert schedule includes Indian vocalist Harshitha Krishnan, Brazilian guitar player Eduardo Mercuri, and Ukrainian composer Shirhan Agabeyli, among others.

Campbell fondly remembers a couple that traveled from Providence to Boston every week to listen to the Courtyard Concerts. Ultimately they moved here and still attend regularly. It’s that kind of powerful connection to the community, and the city that Campbell and the team at the BPL are trying to foster. Here, at lunchtime on a Friday, businessmen in power suits sit next to toddlers and teenagers put away their cell phones to come together and celebrate the music and culture that make Boston sing.