The Inn Street Fountain spurts little geysers, the falling water splashing children and the pad below them.

They wave their arms and twirl. A dog barks in the distance. Traffic joins the symphony of Friday afternoon sounds.

Gloucester composer Robert Bradshaw aims an audio recorder and its furry microphone at the fountain, at the moment. Then another sound sample, and another.

He’s done the same elsewhere in Newburyport — at daybreak and moonrise on Plum Island, at the train station, on the boardwalk and at a marina. In total, eight locations at eight designated times.

He edited the samples to create a “voice” to back-track his composition: “A Day in the Life of Newburyport.” Crickets complement strings; the fall of water, the fall of a melody.

Each movement in his work for violin, viola and cello relates to the samples.

The day, the city, the sounds, colors, smells and impressions make a muse for the music.

“It is the muse,” Bradshaw said. 

The world premiere of “A Day in the Life” highlights the summer finale of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Sunday.

The night starts at 6:15 with a talk by Bradshaw on how he made his commissioned piece. The concert follows at 7 with Bradshaw’s creation and a playful Maurice Ravel duo for violin and cello.

The night culminates with a Béla Bartók string quartet and eight-part poems written and recited by local poets Rhina Espaillat and Alfred Nicol to go along with “A Day in the Life.”

Eight paintings by eight Newburyport Art Association artists — Sara Demrow Dent, Janet Sutherland, Bonita LeFlore, Susan Spellman, Ron Emmerling, Brent Rotsko, Jay McCarthy and Robin Thornhill — will be on display, also based on the eight places designated for the musical composition.

The festival, as a whole, celebrates Newburyport; the Bradshaw piece, particularly so.

“By using places that anyone who has spent time here is familiar with, the piece becomes more real and less abstract,” said David Yang, the festival’s artistic director.

For 18 years, the chamber festival has commissioned original musical pieces. Typically, they portray Newburyport — its history, culture or environment.

Between the festival’s summer and winter concerts, organizers have commissioned some 25-30 new works, Yang said.

Bradshaw, the composer-in-residence, takes great pleasure in making evocative music that encourages people to pay greater attention to their surroundings.

“That is one thing I treasure,” he said.

Bradshaw, 49, lives in Gloucester with his wife and children. He is the son of two public school music educators and is a professional composer, having written for bands, orchestras, chamber groups and operas.

Bradshaw is very familiar with Newburyport, but he had never really sat and paid attention to places here the way he did for this commissioned piece.

He, and others, know there was a day — more than a century ago — when people were intimately connected to classical music.

The musicians want to bridge the gap that grew in the 20th century among listeners, composers and performers.

A musical piece that interprets and includes local color is a step in that direction.

Leading up to Sunday’s premiere, there are two free “A Day in the Life” events today: a rehearsal at 10 a.m. and a panel discussion at noon, both with Bradshaw and both at the Newburyport Art Association, 65 Water St. The eight paintings are also currently on display at the art association.


If you go

What: “A Day in the Life of Newburyport”

When: Sunday, with composer talk at 6:15 p.m. and concert at 7 p.m.

Where: St. Paul’s Church, 166 High St., Newburyport

How much: Advance tickets are $32 for adults and $16 for ages 21 and younger. At the door, $35 and $18

More information: 978-701-4914 or


The eight movements

1. “The Break of Day Over Plum Island,” 5:52 a.m.

2. “158 to North Station,” 7:30 a.m.

3. “The Fountain on Inn Street,” 11 a.m.

4. “The City Hall First Floor Corridor Portrait Gallery,” 2:45 p.m.

5. “The Harbor Marina,” 3:45 p.m.

6. “Promenade on the Waterfront Park Boardwalk,” 6:15 p.m.

7: “Standing in a Grove of Trees, in Oak Hill Cemetery, at Twilight,” 8:10 p.m.

8: “Moonrise Over Plum Island,” 9:30 p.m.


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