The Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation combines top musicians in a historic setting to present its fourth season of free Friday evening outdoor concerts that kicks off July 5.
The Music on Meetinghouse Green series, which features nine concerts, has enjoyed a growing audience since its inception. Many concertgoers bring chairs, blankets and libations and purchase food from the local vendor assigned to each show.
The John Baboian Ensemble, made up of longtime faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston, opens the series this Friday with special guest vocalist Sandi Bedrosian.
Charles Nazarian, president of the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation, said that this fourth season is dedicated to Linzee Coolidge and the late Beth Coolidge, who died this spring, for their vision and generosity to the Cape Ann community. The couple spent many years as avid supporters of local civic institutions.
The concerts, which start at 6 p.m., are held in the heart of the city’s historic district, in front of the majestic meetinghouse, home of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church. It was built in 1806 in the grand Federal style and boasts a 110-foot lantern steeple with a Paul Revere bell.
“There’s nothing like being outdoors in the summertime, and the stage is the facade of the meetinghouse with the tower behind you,” Nazarian said. “It’s pretty dramatic lit up at night, looking up at the grandeur of the building.”
The food vendors, Nazarian said, have become a welcome addition to the concert series. The 2019 lineup features Causeway Restaurant, Classic Cooks, Markouk Bread, Willow Rest, Common Crow Natural Market and Jalapeno’s.
In keeping with the mission of supporting community efforts, a free-will offering is requested at each concert from those able to contribute to support local nonprofit organizations.
A different beneficiary is chosen for each concert night, with representatives of the group on hand to answer questions and distribute informational material. This year’s nonprofits include Pathways for Children, Backyard Growers, The Open Door, Art Haven, Maritime Gloucester, HAWC, The Grace Center, Gloucester Education Foundation and the Meetinghouse Foundation.
By the end of last season, the concerts were attracting more than 200 people and generating about $1,500 for each nonprofit partner. The goal for this summer is to increase nightly attendance to 250 people and raise $2,000 each evening for the nonprofit groups.
“We know there are folks who can’t afford a concert, and we just want people to show up and enjoy the music,” Nazarian said. “But for those who can donate to the free-will contributions, it means so much to the local organizations. They are all so appreciative, but they also are appreciative that people visit their tables and ask questions.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to network in the community and meet people that they might not otherwise meet,” Nazarian said. “It’s a win-win-win type of thing — have a great time, listen to great music and also do some good for the community.”
Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, Nazarian said that costs for the series are covered, so all of the donations go directly to the community organizations.
That all adds up to the concerts being a great way to start off the summer weekends.
“We want people to be able to come home from work on a Friday night and just come sit on the lawn, enjoy a concert and get good food, and they are welcome to bring their own libations,” Nazarian said.
“We do provide about 50 chairs, but we encourage people to bring blankets and lawn chairs so they are comfortable,” he said. “We never cancel, so in inclement weather, we go to the social hall of the meetinghouse and it becomes a coffeehouse atmosphere.”
IF YOU GO
What: Music on Meetinghouse Green
When: Fridays, July 5 through Sept. 6, 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Gloucester Meetinghouse Green, 10 Church St.; rain location inside the meetinghouse
How much: Free admission; free-will offering taken to support local nonprofit groups
More information: www.gloucestermeetinghouse.org
July 5: John Baboian Ensemble
July 12: Livin’ on Luck
July 19: Hye Fusion
July 26: The Goddesses
Aug. 2: What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
Aug. 9: Cape Ann Big Band
Aug. 16: Willie Alexander’s Persistence of Memory Orchestra
Aug. 23: Deb Hardy Band
Sept. 6: Alvin Foster