Summer Music by City Charter

July 04, 1992

Ever since the nation's first municipal concert band was created here in 1860, outdoor band concerts have been among Baltimore's summer pleasures. Indeed, the city charter decrees: "Music shall be provided for the citizens of Baltimore."

The 35-piece municipal concert band -- staffed with professional musicians hired for the occasion -- kicked off its 132nd concert season this week at Northwestern High School. The audience loved it.

Not only did the band play familiar tunes but it invited the audience to sing along. This the band has been doing since 1915, when it introduced the audience-participation sing-along concept in the United States. (The following year, the band established the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in order to add a string section. The BSO finally went private in 1942).

What once was a big Bureau of Music has shrunk over the years and is now part of the Department of Recreation and Parks. But with a modest $49,000 budget, the bureau still manages to provide three series of summer concerts each July.

The concert band features Broadway tunes and light classical music in a mix that "is very much like the Arthur Fiedler Boston Pops," according to program coordinator Stephanie Esworthy. Among the band's 12 performances will be 8 p.m. concerts Monday at Burdick Park at Glenmore Avenue and Walther Boulevard, Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center on Park Heights Avenue and Wednesday in Bolton Hill's Fitzgerald Park. George Gaylor is the band's conductor.

The 20-member Baltimore's Big Band, led by Gene Walker, will have six concerts at varying times and locations during July. It plays everything from Count Basie and Stan Kenton standards to big band arrangements of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder hits.

The Monument City Six Dixieland Jazz Band, under John W. Spicer, recreates the sounds of New Orleans. It will have three concerts at the end of the month.

As big cities have curtailed their budgets, many have folded their bands. Baltimore still has its. We urge readers to take advantage of this rare municipal service -- and hum along to live music.

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