In the past few years at the Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park, I have been struck by the superlative musicianship of the artists presented by the organizers, Lowell National Historical Park and the Lowell Festival Foundation. Night after night the featured artists and their bands demonstrate the highest level of instrument-playing and singing that is out there in the marketplace. I think the venue enhances the quality of the production, especially the way we hear the music. The performance park is bounded on three sides by a section of the Boott Mills, the 1840s boarding house called the Mogan Cultural Center, and in the rear the Lowell High School Freshman Academy (former Lowell Trade School). The east edge is a line of trees. So you feel as if you are in an outdoor listening room, particularly when the park is filled margin-to-margin and front to back, as it was last night for Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and their Glory Band, along with opening act Amy Black and her group (Amy lived in Lowell for a few years not long ago). Whether it has been Ziggy Marley, Lyle Lovett, or the B-52′s, these masterful artists are a joy to hear and watch—and they are “right there,” so to speak, in the intimate setting. I recently enjoyed Paul McCartney at Fenway Park, and there is no comparison for scale. Boarding House Park feels like a club, with the sky overhead. Last night, the moon was behind clouds, but on a clear night with stars, the setting is inspiring. Above and to the right of the stage is the iconic composition of Boott Mills smokestack and the signature bell-and-clock tower. The musical hot-spot is an urban oasis on these nights. Someday several decades from now, somebody will write about this period of Lowell’s cultural history the way authors have written about the 1830s and ’40s, when Lowell was a required stop for figures like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Martineau, Abraham Lincoln, and Davy Crockett. With Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, the Lowell Folk Festival, and the Lowell Summer Music Series, we are fortunate to be experiencing the best in music, live in Lowell.
Facebook photo courtesy of Celeste Bernardo