Music in the open air

There’s something special about outdoor music performances. Whatever your taste – Womad, Glastonbury, Carolina Country Music or Jazz New Orleans, there’s something for everyone. Some people though, like their music on a much more intimate, less ear drum bursting level and are not looking for big names or mind altering substances.

Some of my best musical memories are of coming across an unexpectedly good band playing at a local hop or of rounding the corner in a hot street in Spain and hearing someone practicing on a Spanish guitar in a shady spot, or Satie’s Gymnopedies from the open window of a house in Provence. These were not performances but we stayed to listen anyway.

For the last two summers Friends of Rowntree Park have run music events in the park. There’s no pay and the audiences are not huge but still people queue up to perform. Just for the pleasure of it. Just to share their skill with others and get the reward of smiles and happy faces.

Of course musicians must make a living and I would not deny them their hat put out to collect money but such is the competition for buskers in York now that the volume has been ever increasing, as they fight to drown each other out with mics and PAs.

At Rowntree Park we offer an electricity supply (usually essential for a mic and PA because unless the sound is contained it gets carried away by the wind) and a gazebo – these are relatively cheap and provide protection from the sun. We are mindful of the local residents and ensure that the volume is kept to acceptable levels. It would be wonderful to have a proper covered bandstand with a protected electricity supply, available for use for everyone, but the council cuts mean the bandstand is now just an open space and about £150 would have to be found each time to test the electrics since they are subject to flooding. The council allow us to run small performances free of charge – which we usually put on under the café- but for larger events, they make a charge which has to be passed on to the performers.

I see a corner of Castle Gateway – maybe a Speakers’ Corner when it is not been used – which has natural acoustics in order to hear the spoken or sung word as it should be. I see tiered seating around this so all can see and hear from the littlest upwards. I see stories woven and communities coming together.

Caroline Lewis / music events coordinator, Friends of Rowntree Park

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