April 7, 2021

McCarter’s Concerts on Palmer Square Aim to Keep the Community Engaged

RECONNECTING THROUGH ENTERTAINMENT: The StreetBeat Brass Band is the opening act for McCarter Theatre Center’s series of Sunday afternoon concerts in Palmer Square on April 25.

By Anne Levin

While no firm date is set for when McCarter Theatre Center will offer drama, dance, or music on its two stages again, the administration is not sitting by as they wait for guidelines and executive orders about reopening.

McCarter plans to reconnect with past audiences and welcome new ones with a series of Sunday afternoon concerts in Palmer Square. Starting April 25 from 4-6 p.m. with the brass-based StreetBeat Brass Band, the family-friendly events run through June 20.

“After this tough year, we are eager to celebrate the return of spring in Palmer Square with our communities,” wrote McCarter’s Associate Artistic Director Nicole A. Watson, in an email. “While we cannot be indoors yet, we do know that art can happen anywhere, and what a beautiful way to celebrate spring and the warmer weather with our neighbors than this outdoor concert series. It’s a wonderful chance for all of us to meet again and to celebrate new artists.”

Each of the nine musical acts are making their McCarter debuts. The idea was to present a wide, inclusive range of established musicians from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The styles include Latin, R&B, pop, jazz, swing, reggae, and country music.

The StreetBeat Brass Band on opening day is influenced by the multiculturalism of New York City. They play a range of brass-based music including New Orleans jazz, polka, Mexican banda, gospel, klezmer, and funk. On May 2, the country duo October Rose performs, followed on May 9 by Esteem All Stars, which plays pop, rock, and oldies.

The music of Pat Guadagno on May 16 is rooted in the historic Jersey Shore music scene. The Suyat Band on May 23 “delivers high-energy hits from yesterday and today with rock-solid musicianship and warm-hearted Aloha spirit,” according to a press release. The Jeiris Cook Trio, on May 30, comes from a long generation of musicians with deep roots in the South.

On June 6, Moroccan Sheepherders “take classic covers and originals to another dimension with their mélange of genres from tribal ambient trance to blue-eyed blues-rock.” Random Test Reggae, which features reggae and soca music, is June 13. The final concert on June 20 is by Ritmo Caliente, a Latin orchestra specializing in salsa, merengue, ballads, waltz, jazz, and songs from the ‘50s: “oldies but goodies in a Latin salsa beat with English words.”

Audiences are encouraged to gather, socially distanced, on the lawn in front of the Nassau Inn. Both McCarter and Palmer Square will be following CDC guidelines, state and local mandates, and industry best practices. Food will be available from vendors around the square.

While its Matthews and Berlind theater stages have been quiet during the past year, McCarter has kept audiences engaged with digital offerings, including several classes for different age groups.

“McCarter has been able to weather the pandemic thanks to the immense support from our members and patrons,” said Watson. “Through their generosity, and in collaboration with local and regional partners, McCarter has been able to produce two award-nominated virtual productions [The Manic Monologues and The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration and Influence] and continues to provide world-class education programs for both children and adults.”

The “McCarter Concerts in Palmer Square” series is a way of thanking the public and welcoming audiences back at a date to be announced. “While we hope to have more information to share soon, we are incredibly excited to offer this slate of outdoor programming and more entertainment for audiences of all ages as we continue into McCarter’s bright future,” Watson said.

Visit mccarter.org for more information.