Summer concerts draw crowds

The Baltimore Sun

When Michael Fiore visited local wineries in Long Island, he discovered that the owners had brought in bands and disc jockeys to entertain people with music as they drank their wine.

Outdoor concerts are an obvious choice to bring people out because music makes people happy, he said.

"I was impressed," said Fiore, who opened Fiore Winery in 1986. "It was relaxing, and I thought it was very attractive."

Fiore left New York, returned to his Pylesville winery, excited about offering an outdoor concert at his vineyard. He wanted to expose people to his vineyard and share his passion for wine and winemaking, he said. About 200 people showed up for the event, and Fiore said he was hooked.

He became the latest member of a growing number of organizations, businesses, and parks to offer concerts in the county.

"I've never heard anyone say they don't like music," Fiore said. "People don't all like the same kind of music, but they all like some kind of music. Music is a universal language that brings people together."

Ranging in price from free to $15, the concerts, which are often held as fundraisers for charitable organizations, are offered at venues in the county that include a topiary garden, a park by the water, city parks, a golf course and historic sites.

About 15 years before Fiore began offering concerts, members of the Havre de Grace Arts Commission had a similar idea. They initiated concerts to show off their town on the bay.

They hoped that the concerts would appeal to people of all ages, and bring people into Havre de Grace, said Pat Fair, president of the arts commission.

"We wanted an activity that would focus on the town's great character," said Fair, who was born and raised in Havre de Grace.

After they debated the possibilities, the commission members settled on an outdoor summer concert series. They selected the Millard E. Tydings Park, a 22-acre waterfront park on the waterfront, as the place for the concerts. From the start, the event was a success.

"Some people don't want to go to the city for cultural events," said Fair. "Our concerts give people a chance to enjoy cultural events locally, as well as the beauty of the area at the same time. They can listen to music and look out at the Chesapeake Bay."

From 300 to 700 people attend the Havre de Grace concerts each week. Fair attributes the success of the musical performances to the prime location on the bay, the local musicians and a variety of music genres.

"One year we might have jazz, and the next year pop," she said.

The musicians are selected by a committee that listens to the demo tapes sent in by area performers.

"We have some groups who perform every year," she said. "People tell us they like a certain performer and we invite them to come back. Then we select new ones as well."

In Aberdeen, the parks and recreation department has offered outdoor concerts for about 20 years, said Craig Lanphear, a recreation specialist for the county who oversees Swan Harbor Farm.

Held on Tuesdays, the Aberdeen musical events draw 150-300 people each week, and feature a wide range of music genres including orchestra, bluegrass, jazz and chorus, he said.

"We try to provide a local concert, with a variety of music to attract a multitude of people," Lanphear said.

The concerts are offered mid-week to give people a break, said Karen Tegges, the event coordinator at Swan Harbor Farm, who also coordinates the concerts.

A majority of the performers are local musicians, she said.

"It's nice to have so many local performers," Tegges said. "And it's even nicer that they get to perform for people from their own community."

The most popular concert is the performance by the 389th Army Concert Band, she said.

"The bigger the band, the more people who come to hear them play," she said.

Although some organizations want to bring droves of people out to their concerts, Fiore intends to keep his music events small and family-oriented, he said. To achieve this, he offers the concerts on Sunday afternoons, he said.

"If you offer music concerts at night, you draw singles looking for a date," said Fiore who had 150 to 200 visitors at each concert. "I like to see people come out with their picnic baskets, lawn chairs or blankets and relax, drink wine and let their kids run around and play. The music compliments that scenario."

Although some concerts are only offered in the summer, Fiore said he plans to increase the number of concerts he offers at the vineyard.

"I'd like to offer about two music concerts a month," he said. "I'd love to offer concerts every weekend in the summer."

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