By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – A mission of the Bay State Green Committee is to attract more visitors to the park, located adjacent to the Bay State Commons shopping plaza. The committee's chair, Kim Levesque, heard that local music promoter Sally Johnson was searching for a new venue.
?”The park is a great place for outdoor concerts,” Levesque said. “The bandstand is designed for acoustics, so the sound is incredible.”
?After Johnson met with the committee, it was announced they were collaborating to present the inaugural Summer Concerts in the Park. The concert series features a mix of musical styles by national, regional and local acts.
Johnson is thrilled with the committee's interest in concerts.
“Halleluiah!” she exclaimed. “We need music in the park in Westborough.”
Bay State Green officially opened in October 2009 with a ribbon-cutting presided by town officials. It was held concurrently with Westborough Cultural Council's first festival, “Arts in Common.” Due to inclement weather, the entertainment scheduled to christen the park's bandstand was moved inside the plaza's vacant buildings.
The bandstand finally featured entertainment in June 2010, when music ensembles from the Westborough Public Schools presented “Jazzstock.” Since then, the park's bandstand has hosted concerts by the Westborough Community Band and entertainment for the Rotary Club's Spring Festival.
The committee decided the time was right for a concert series when Johnson agreed to join the project.
Sally brings a lot of expertise,” Levesque said. “She has so much energy and passion for music.”
The daughter of a music teacher, Johnson said, “Music is in my blood. I'se always wanted to present singer-songwriters and let people in and around Westborough know more about the music scene.”
She learned about the scene while frequenting the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus for several years before it closed in 1996.
“The Old Vienna brought amazing national talent to Westborough,” she said. “And they gave the opportunity to singer-songwriters who were trying to make it up the ladder to open for them.”
Johnson attended its weekly Open Mic Night with the intention of singing songs she wrote. For quite awhile, however, she did more observing and learning than singing.
“I sat there for three years before I finally got up the courage to go onstage and perform,” she shared. “It changed my life.”
Johnson is best known for organizing musical showcases for teens, which were first presented at the Old Vienna. When the club closed, she took the showcases to other Westborough locations, then to neighboring towns. Johnson said she's pleased to bring music to Westborough again.
Preparing for the concerts, she surveyed guests at the Westborough Spring Festival in May. Johnson learned there are audiences for two types of shows, so she planned concert themes accordingly. Singer-songwriter nights are scheduled Fridays. Upbeat, family-oriented concerts are scheduled late-afternoon Sundays.
The first concert was presented July 13 – a Friday the 13th. Luckily, it was successful, Johnson assessed.
“I was ecstatic by the outpouring of fans,” she said. “We had about 130 people.”
Even more attended the July 22 concert.?
Guests are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs, along with a picnic spread or take-out from a local eatery. While concerts are free, a suggested donation of $5 per person or $20 per family will enter guests into a raffle with gift certificates as prizes.
Thanks to sponsorships by several local businesses and individuals, concerts will be held Fridays, Aug. 10 and Sept. 7, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays, Aug. 19 and Sept. 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.