Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 8, 2013

Springfield Armory: Music in the Air

by Shera Cohen

Question: Think downtown Springfield. Now think outdoor summer music. Put these two thoughts together. What is the answer to this combo?

Answer: Of course, Biker Night – the sounds of hot 70’s & 80’s bands on Thursdays at Stearns Square.

And there’s a second answer: A new series, about a half-mile from Stearns, just up the hill on the beautiful grounds of Springfield Armory (on the grounds of STCC). The music brings nearly all genres to downtown, except perhaps hot rock. The schedule also fits convenient times, except for Thursdays.  In other words, there’s so much music to literally fill the air for many different audiences, right there in the center of Springfield.

Springfield Armory’s five concert series – with at least one concert each month – takes place on its pristine acres of lawn. Located at the corner of Federal and State streets, there is lots of free parking on the grounds. All concerts are free.

Beginning summer early is the U.S. Coast Guard Dixieland Jazz Band on Monday, May 27th at 2pm. Appropriately in keeping with the Armory’s significant role in the history of the United States will be a Memorial Day Commemoration Concert. The Dixieland Jazz Band was organized in 1970 to perform classic jazz, blues, and rags with a New Orleans flavor. The eight-member troupe has entertained audiences across America, as well as in Europe, and Asia. Notable venues included Preservation Hall in New Orleans and Times Square in New York City.
One of the important features of Armory Day, now in its 15th year, is the music of the Victorian Quadrille Orchestra, joined by the Small Planet Dancers’ Civil War Ballroom performance on Saturday, June 22nd at 1pm. The seven-member Quadrille and 12-member dance troupe will perform their 90-minute concert/dance which includes: quadrilles, mazurkas, polkas, waltzes, and reels. The Victorian Quadrille repertoire of songs has been arranged and orchestrated for the era. All participants will be dressed in historical period costumes.
July brings the Annual Big Band Concert. In the tradition of the actual Benny Goodman Band, which performed at the Armory in 1943, this summer’s headliner is Blue Skies Big Band on Saturday, July 13th at 6:30pm. See PRIME’s July issue for more about this fabulous concert. In the meantime, consider this a “Hold the Date” notice.

The U.S. Army continues the theme of military band concerts at the Armory. On Wednesday, July 24th at 7pm, the 215th U.S. Army Band will take the outdoor stage. This band numbers 42 and their music will include genres from Broadway to blues, classical to country, R&B to rock ‘n roll. This is the first time that the 215th has performed in Springfield.

On a personal note (pun intended), I’ve been counting the number of military bands concerts which I have been involved in producing in the Springfield area. Having worked for the cities of Springfield and Chicopee, Bravo and In the Spotlight, and Springfield Armory, the 215th will be my 100th concert. The first was in 1980. I told my boss at the time, “No one will come to these military concerts. Who wants to hear two hours of patriotic music?” None the less, I was instructed to make it happen. Well, that was a huge, “I told you so.” Was I ever wrong when I saw 1500+ in attendance listening to music of all genres. And, yes, there was the finale of the traditional Armed Forces medley.

The series’ finale, once again, features the U.S. Army – this time the 94th U.S. Army Reserve Band on Saturday, August 17th at 7:30pm. The eight members will bring contemporary pop music to the Armory.

The rain site for Springfield Armory concerts is Scibelli Hall Theatre, adjacent to the Armory at STCC. Credit for the Victorian Quadrille concert is given to the Springfield Cultural Council. For information check or call 413-734-8551.