Hundreds of people gathered around the Music Haven stage Sunday for the first time this summer, as Central Park buzzed with activity on a picture-perfect evening.
The 28th year of the Music Haven concert series kicked off Sunday night with a performance by internationally recognized traditional Irish musician Sharon Shannon. Concert-goers were a mix of residents out for a night in the park, and those who marked the night on the calendar specifically for the artist. Many were from the city or neighboring towns, with others coming from as far as Saratoga, East Greenbush and Colonie.
“I like the spirit of the place,” said Pat Bruns, a Schenectady resident. “It’s like collective relaxation.”
Bruns said he attends shows at Music Haven as often as he can, but was especially looking forward to Sunday night’s main act.
“I saw a video of [Shannon] performing and it was astounding,” he said. “When I heard she was going to be here, I said ‘We have to get over there.’”
Shannon's debut album, a self-titled disc released in 1991, remains the No. 1-selling traditional Irish music release of all time.
One man from Rotterdam said he enjoys the shows because the park is easy to get to. He was particularly looking forward to Shannon’s performance as a fan of Irish music.
Another Schenectady woman said coming to Music Haven is “a summer thing to do,” saying she frequents the venue regardless of the act.
Others said they don’t attend every show during the summer, but try to make it out once or twice per season.
By 7 p.m., the seats in front of the stage had filled in, and hundreds of people had set up lawn chairs and blankets to stake out views for the show. Some brought food, but for those who didn’t, More Perreca’s bakery, Wolf Hollow Brewing Co. and Ben & Jerry’s had stands set up in the park.
The surrounding park was packed with people of all ages, with kids bustling about the neighboring playground, a few people fishing in the pond and a dozen people meandering through the Central Park Rose Garden.
Opening for Shannon was Celtic guitarist John Doyle.
"I heard I was getting paid by the note, so I figured what the hell," Doyle joked to the crowd after strumming a long solo.
When this season of performances concludes, work to renovate the facility will begin.
In July 2016, the city announced a $1.3 million grant would be divided among the Music Haven stage, the Central Park tennis courts and the park’s A Diamond. While work has begun on the tennis facilities, the stage and baseball field remained unchanged.
Upgrades to the stage have been pushed back until the conclusion of this year’s concert series after it was determined laying new sod beforehand would’ve forced the shows to be relocated, City Engineer Chris Wallin said.
The money is to be used to install stadium-style seating in front of the stage, and to improve the surrounding amphitheater. Those interested in contributing to the project can buy bricks, façade blocks and seats to be dedicated in their name.
The Music Haven series continues next week with a performance by Malian Afropop group Amadou & Mariam. With each show starting at 7 p.m. at Central Park, or Proctors in case of rain, here’s a look at the remaining lineup for this summer:
- July 16: Amadou & Mariam — Malian Afropop pioneers.
- July 23: El Septeto Santiaguero — Propulsive Grammy-winning Cuban dance band.
- July 30: BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet — Legendary Cajun combo.
- Aug. 6: Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble — The Middle East meets American jazz.
- Aug. 13: Yemen Blues — Bold blend of Arabian funk, jazz and soul.