There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in Boston this summer (and throughout the year), free concerts are as easy to find as upset fans at Fenway Park.
By Jason M. Rubin.
Thanks in part to the large number of colleges—especially music schools—in the Boston area and to the variety of picturesque green spaces and waterfront areas in the city, a Bostonian’s entertainment budget can stretch quite far, especially if jazz and classical music are the entertainment of choice.
The Berklee School of Music has perhaps the highest local profile among the city’s music schools. One reason why is its commitment to bringing music to the community on a year-round basis (most, if not all, other colleges offering music events to the public do so only during the academic year). The fact that so many of the school’s concerts, recitals, clinics, and master classes are free and open to the public means that said public has innumerable opportunities to hear talented students and renowned faculty perform.
This summer Berklee is taking the music to venues throughout the city. Berklee’s “Summer in the City” includes waterside events at the Harborwalk beside the ICA and at Atlantic Wharf and Children’s Wharf, as well as a weekend series on Georges Island and Spectacle Island. Inland venues include Club Passim, Kendall Square, City Hall Plaza, and the Prudential Center. Here is a complete calendar of Berklee concerts.
As for the other major music schools in the area, Boston’s New England Conservatory (NEC) and Cambridge’s Longy School of Music (the latter now officially a part of New York’s Bard College), offer a large number and broad variety of free concerts and recitals during the school year. Here is a schedule of NEC’s events. Here is Longy’s concert schedule.
Back to summer. It’s not just Berklee that comes out in the warm weather. The Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s (BLO’s) free concerts at the Hatch Shell and other outdoor venues have become a summertime institution. A complete calendar of the BLO’s performances can be found here; its upcoming concerts at the Hatch Shell—all on Wednesdays starting at 7 p.m.—include
July 18: “Fiesta Sinfónica”, featuring “Dance music from two worlds performed by the Landmarks Orchestra and a pocket-sized salsa orchestra from Villa Victoria in the South End.”
July 25: “At the River”, featuring works by Smetana, Ellington, Schumann, and Strauss.
August 1: Boston Civic Symphony subs for the BLO, performing works by Holst, Lalo, and Beethoven.
August 8: “Around the World in 80 Minutes” with Boston Lyric Opera, featuring works by Puccini, Mozart, Wagner, and Bernstein.
August 15: Longwood Symphony Orchestra subs to perform Piano Concerto No. 21 by Mozart.
August 22: Works by Schumann, Haydn, and Mendelssohn.
August 29: Shakespeare-themed program with works by Beethoven, Walton, Shostakovich, and Mendelssohn.
New England Conservatory is “in for summer” with its fourth year partnering with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, providing free musical events preceding CSC’s performances of Coriolanus on Boston Common. These “Commonwealth Concerts” run from August 3 through 12, and feature eight different groups from NEC’s Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Departments. All performances are 40 minutes long and begin at 6:20 p.m., except for Sundays when they begin at 5:20 p.m. Come early for the music and stay for the play. For more information and descriptions on the individual artists, go here or here.
This has been a tough summer already for Boston radio. Though oldies station WODS is off the analog airwaves (it can still be heard on HD and online), its free, summer concert series continues at the Hatch Shell on Saturday, July 21, with Burton Cummings of the Guess Who and Mark Farner of Grand Funk and Saturday, August 4, with Rick Springfield. Shows run from 7-9:30 p.m. There has been no word from the station (owned by CBS) as to whether this series will return next summer.
Finally, the 10th Annual Boston Arts Festival takes over Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park from Friday, September 7 to Sunday, September 9. Free performances will be presented Saturday and Sunday; the Festival kicks off Friday night with a concert by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, whose saxophonist, Neal Sugarman, is originally from Newton.