Diverse lineup draws people to Pastorius Park concerts

Chestnut Hill’s scenic Pastorius Park is great for a daily escape – a sprawling green space valued by the community for rest and relaxation. Come summertime that tranquility is replaced by another custom — the annual Pastorius Park concert series. 

“This has been going so long, it’s like a summer institution,” said Julie Byrne, a Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) board member and co-chair of the concert series.

Now in its 65th consecutive season, the free family-friendly event is a favorite among many residents. Hosted by the CHCA, concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday and run from June 19 to July 31.

The summer’s first two acts — Suzie Brown, a folk singer, and the John Byrne Band, a celtic music group — speak to the diverse musical lineup that has become a staple of the concert series in recent years. While similar summer series exist throughout the Philadelphia area, Byrne said the array of music is what sets the Pastorius Park shows apart from others.

“We’re fairly unique in our mix of genres,” said John Byrne of the John Byrne Band.

Neil Scheinin, who chairs the series alongside Byrne, agreed that it was the variety of music that makes the Pastorius Park summer series so special. The goal each year is to have an extensive enough lineup to draw people out for a few shows, he said, adding that they cater to people far beyond Chestnut Hill.

Fort Washington resident Mark Sullivan can attest to that. Introduced to the series over ten years ago through friends that lived in Chestnut Hill, Sullivan said he tries to come to a few shows every summer.

At the time, Sullivan recalled asking his friends, “Is it worth the drive?”

He admitted it was. Even though his friends have long moved away from the area, Sullivan has remained a fan of the series ever since.

“By having a variety, you can appeal to all different musical tastes,” Scheinin said.

Scheinin said he tries to pick the bands according to what is going on in the local music scene. This year, all of the acts hail from Philadelphia and highlight the best in local talent.

When the series first started, it was known for its classical style of music, regularly featuring acts like the Allentown Band and the Mummers, said Byrne. 

One thing that has remained the same for the duration of the series is the sense of community surrounding it, said Byrne. For 65 years, the series has been volunteer-supported and community-sponsored.

One way the organizers keep the series community-focuses is honoring local police, fire and postal workers at the final concert of the series by providing them with free food, said Chris Padova, CHCA at-large board member and liaison for the area’s town watch. Last year, local restaurants and CHCA members donated food for the workers, said Padova. 

Along with organizational assistance from dedicated volunteers, the series receives financial support from Chestnut Hill Hospital, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, WXPN, the Parks and Recreation Department and most importantly, donations from concert attendees.

“The Pastorius Park summer concert series is so beloved because it really gives people a reason to come out and enjoy themselves,” said Padova.

“Adults might bring a bottle of wine, kids dance around and play, young couples lay out on a blanket, families take their dogs. It really is a wonderful time for everybody — young and old alike.”

Here is the lineup for the rest of the summer:

July 10 – Aaron & The Spell (folk-soul)July 17 – Cheers Elephant (indie-rock)July 24 – Phyllis Chapell & SIORA (ethno-jazz)July 31 – John Train (folk-rock)

In the event of rain, performances will be held at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s lower school auditorium, located at 8000 Cherokee St. For more information visit the CHCA website.

Brianna Michelle Bosak and Elizabeth Diane Sim are Temple University students.  This piece was produced in collaboration with WHYY NewsWorks. 

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