A Howard County concert series this summer featuring rhythm and blues, rock, zydeco and a vast array of harmonies and sounds offers a musical journey that takes a sojourner from Lake Elkhorn in east Columbia to Centennial Park in Ellicott City to Lake Kittamaqundi at Town Center.
Sponsored by several Columbia businesses and village centers, music alfresco has been an area pastime for more than 10 years.
"This is my favorite part of the year," said Ann Combs, Centennial's program specialist. "These concerts are a family thing. Over the years, I've watched the children grow up and see them learn to appreciate different kinds of music. It's amazing."
Rock 'n' roll will be featured at a free performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Elkhorn. The concert finale this week will feature solo artist Gary Brown.
For a $2 parking fee, at 7 p.m. Wednesdays a broad range of musicians will perform at Centennial Park. The list includes the Annie Sidley Band on Wednesday; Gumbo Junkyard, a zydeco and rhythm and blues band, on Aug. 2; and The Moonlighters, a blues band, on Aug. 9.
Centennial will end its concert series Aug. 16, with a children's concert featuring the Dyno Rock Band, dressed in dinosaur regalia.
Prepared by Centennial's "house chef," food will be for sale from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or until supplies last on each concert night.
Stroll over to Lake Kittamaqundi and starting at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and at 6:30 p.m. Sundays, you're likely to find a smorgasbord of musical artists such as the classical Columbia Concert Band tonight; rock and blues band The Crow on Wednesday; and western bopp - a mixture of western and rhythm and blues - band McDermott on Thursday.
Bring people together
"This was the best way to bring the community together," said Maggie Brown, president and director of community services with the Columbia Association. "The impact these outdoor concerts have on the community is incredible. We get between 500 to 600 people, per night, but it's all weather driven."
Rain forced the cancellation last week of rock 'n' roll band Joe Carta and the Blue Grass Cats at Lake Elkhorn. Concert officials said Friday that the performance will not be rescheduled.
Officials hope for clear skies and big crowds at Columbia's lakefront Saturday for the International Festival, in which a variety of ethnic performers will display their wares - from Celtic to klezmer to reggae jazz music.
And weather didn't interfere with the roots rock music of The Swingin' Daves on Thursday night as the band wowed an audience of more than 100.
'Society of many'
"This show of talent sums up what Columbia is all about: a society of many and one of tolerance," Brown said. "What better way to bring to our community what this community is all about other than through music?"
Jay Smar, whose credits include coal miners' hits from the album "The Ballad of Glen Onoko" and old-time country hits such as "Socket to Me," performed at Lake Elkhorn on July 12. Attracting a comfortable crowd of about 100, Smar prides himself in being a returning attraction to Columbia for the fourth consecutive year.
"Columbia's a low-stress gig," he said.
For information about the concert series, call 410-381-9600 for events at Lake Elkhorn; 410-313- 4635 for Centennial; and 410- 715-3161 or 410-715-3363 for the lakefront.