Boston Landmarks Orchestra Returns to the Hatch Shell

By Beth Treffeisen

With summer in full swing, it is time to sit back, relax, and enjoy a free night of classical music, courtesy of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

Under the leadership of Music Director Christopher Wilkins and Executive Director Jo Frances Meyer, the 2017 season of free concerts at the DCR’s Hatch memorial Shell on the Esplanade will bring live entertainment to classical music lovers or first time listeners alike.

Opening night, titled “Music for a Summer Evening” will take place on Wednesday, July 19, at 7 pm.

“The program this year has outstanding orchestral music but also amazing new music that engages many, many members of our community both on and off the stage,” said Frances Meyer.

She said by having the performers come from all over the region, it is a good way to get people to come out and watch it.

“There are still lots of people in many neighborhoods that aren’t even aware of it,” said Frances Meyer. “We want to make it a gathering place for the city.”

One City Choir, that features singers from 44 cities and towns in Massachusetts that will be singing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, is a great example, said Frances Meyer, on how the Landmarks Orchestra tries to gather people at the Hatch Shell.

Last year Boston Landmarks Orchestra celebrated its 15th anniversary and this year it is celebrating 10 years at the Hatch Shell.

Conductor and community advocate Charles Ansbacher founded the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in 2001. The orchestra is comprised of many of the area’s finest professional musicians.

In its earliest years, the orchestra performed in historically important settings such as Fenway Park, the USS Constitution pier, Jamaica Pond, Franklin Park, Copley Square and more. Since 2007, its principal home has been at the DCR’s Hatch Shell.

“We’re right in the middle of a huge metropolitan area and it’s producing its own sound,” said Wilkins. He pointed out the nearby Red Line, traffic from Red Sox games, and the occasional motorcycle rumbles that come off of Storrow Drive. “Sometimes its quite humorous but sometimes it’s not. But we are right in the heart of the city and that’s what it was intended to be,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins said that is very different playing outdoors than it is from playing indoors, especially because of the ambient sound. He said, everyone has to have a separate microphone. “It’s a huge mixing job.”

Being outdoors is part of the charm, said Wilkins, who enjoys seeing the joggers and bikers going by on the Esplanade stopping in awe when they realize there is a free concert going on at the Hatch Shell. “They just stop, sit down on the lawn and take in the concert,” he said.

Off to the left of the stage Wilkins aid that they set up a “Maestro Zone” where paper batons are handed out to get a free lesson in conducting.

“For us, some things we do are unique and strange. We are known for doing everyday things a little differently,” said Wilkins.

This year, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra will be working with students from East Boston through Zumix. They will perform in a rock/ jazz music band that is enhanced by the orchestra instruments.

In addition, students from Camp Harbor View will be performing with 50 drums on stage alongside the orchestra.

These programs are supported in part by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Boston Cultural Council and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston.

The biggest concern about performing in an outdoors venue is weather, said Frances Meyer. It is always a juggling act to find a back-up performance space that can handle all of the performers.

One thing Frances Meyer wants to make clear is that the performers are not volunteers. Over the years, she said that many people ask if they all volunteer but, Frances Meyer believes that it is important to pay the professional orchestra that are so talented.

“We work hard to raise money,” said Frances Meyers. “It may be a free concert but it’s not free to provide.”

The Concerts will be held every Wednesday evening at 7 pm from July 19 through August 23, 2017. A full list of descriptions and times are on the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’d website.

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