St. John’s is a city that is steeped in music, from the sidewalk troubadours that grace the downtown core, to the concerts and festivals that can be found in many a field, park, church or bar.
For the past 12 years, the City of St. John’s has been taking it to the streets, offering a variety of free lunchtime concerts to suit a multitude of musical tastes. In 2008, the City introduced its popular Music at Harbourside Lunchtime Concert Series, giving local and visiting music fans the chance to experience the sounds of some of the province’s best musicians against the backdrop of St. John’s Harbour. Over the years, the concerts have drawn everyone from tourists and families enjoying picnics, to downtown workers and curious passersby.
“We usually have 250-300 attendees at the concerts, and that number keeps increasing year after year. Considering the growing audience, it seems quite likely that more people are coming to, and staying in, the downtown core thanks to the draw of these concerts,” says Deborah Cook (Manager) and Thea Morash (Arts and Cultural Development Coordinator) of the City’s Tourism and Culture Division in a joint emailed statement.
The City has since expanded the series to include Bannerman Park and the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, spreading the music to an even wider audience. Each concert opens with a youth performer, thanks to a partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society. The City has also previously partnered with the Sound Symposium and the Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival to offer performances by featured musicians, while promoting the organizations’ events at the same time.
This year’s series has featured the likes of Duane Andrews, Danette Eddy, Brianna Gosse, Denis Parker, Ian Foster and more – and it’s not over yet. Upcoming performances include The Novaks (Sept. 9, Harbourside Park); Land of the Lakes (Sept. 16, Harbourside Park); Tanglecove (Sept. 23, Harbourside Park); Celtic Fiddlers (Sept. 18, Bannerman Park); and the Atlantic String Quartet (Oct. 1, Quidi Vidi Village Plantation).
The concerts offer a unique opportunity for musicians, say Cook and Morash, giving them the chance to access an audience they wouldn’t normally reach.
“When you play at a ‘Music at’ concert, you are playing en plain air in the middle of the day; this is quite different for many musicians, who naturally perform most often in the evening and at a bar or other adults-only setting. Our concerts attract a huge audience of people who may not be a part of the bar-going crowd, including young people who would otherwise not have the same opportunities to hear these performers.”
The concert series is also a great boon to tourism, attracting visitors to the downtown core and giving them the chance to discover more of what St. John’s has to offer, while promoting the City’s flourishing arts community say Cook and Morash.
“They reinforce our reputation as a City of music and culture. The concerts can also play a part in growing musicians’ careers, supporting artists that are appreciated across Canada and internationally and thereby acting as ambassadors of the City, and increasing interest in St. John’s as a destination.”
“Showcasing our talent, providing paying performance opportunities and increasing performers’ exposure, entertaining growing audiences and defining St. John’s as a vibrant culture-rich place to be: it’s of benefit to our residents as much as visitors!”