From the Boston Pops’ annual July Fourth shebang to the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s weeks of Hatch Shell concerts, the Charles River Esplanade has long been a summer destination for music in the city’s front yard. This summer, local music lovers will have one more option, and this one stretches beyond the Hatch Shell to encompass almost the full 3.1 miles of Esplanade parkland: GroundBeat: The Esplanade’s Free Riverfront Music Series, an initiative from the Esplanade Association that kicks off this weekend.
This is the first time the Esplanade Association has sponsored such events, said Michael Nichols, the association’s executive director. “We’re testing different types of partnerships with different sized organizations in different locations in the park,” he said by phone Wednesday. “Like many of the historic parks and public spaces in Boston, we’re not built out with a lot of electricity. We don’t have performance panels. There’s a lot of creature comforts that performing artists like, that the Esplanade doesn’t have, but we’ve worked with organizations that we think are flexible . . . that are used to popping up and doing events in different locations around the city.”
This Sunday, “GroundBeat Kicks-Off” begins the series with performances at Fiedler Field from jazz singer Valerie Stephens, urban dance crew Trend N Motion, and drumming project Grooversity, presented by BAMS Fest, or the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival.
At sunset on June 21, the summer solstice, 59 brass players from Make Music Boston will perform “Water Music,” a site-specific piece by four local composers inspired by the Esplanade’s lagoons.
Then on Sept. 23, a Celebrity Series of Boston-produced concert will place 25 jazz ensembles along a two-mile loop of the Esplanade, through which audience members may wander at will. In addition, the association will be sponsoring informal acoustic pop-up performances throughout the summer.
“I think we’re already among the most beautiful locations in Boston,” said Nichols, who called the Esplanade one of the “most Instagrammed” places in the region. “And the ambiance that will get created by bringing really thoughtful event producers to the Esplanade, I think, is a marriage that we’re really excited about.”
Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.