Old Lyme comes alive with music
Old Lyme ―The hills may (still) be alive with Julie Andrews’ beloved soprano voice, but late on Wednesday afternoon, it was Old Lyme that was pulsing joyfully to the sound of music.
Indeed, from the Lyme Academy of Fine Art all the way down Lyme Street to First Congregational Church, the annual and international Make Music Day was celebrated in community-wide fashion with a “Make Music Old Lyme Stroll.”
There was an expectant, almost regimental kickoff to the event. As church bells chimed 5 p.m., musicians who had been setting up and sound-checking equipment – on the lawns and patios of shops, the library, private residences, Town Hall, Center School, the Lyme Youth Services Bureau, and on – started to play.
And residents instantly materialized, parking on both sides of the nearly mile-long stretch and emerging from their homes on perpendicular neighborhood streets.
One could ascribe an almost musical Halloween quality to the occasion. Since there was so much music, citizens strolled from spot to spot, enjoying the sonic treats in a variety of styles: jazz, country, the Great American Songbook, rock, pop, the Old Lyme Town Band blowing orchestral and march fare, and a mélange of folk, bluegrass and blues. In all, there were 13 musical acts.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything, and I think the town appreciates and enjoys it,” said Dan Stevens who along with his wife Gail Stevens, owns and operates Old Lyme’s Nightingale’s Acoustic Café, a popular live music venue.
They also founded the nonprofit MusicNow Foundation, Inc., which helped produce the “Make Music Old Lyme Stroll” with the Old Lyme Arts District and the Cultural Coalition.
On the front veranda of the First Congregational Church, rock band The Midnight Anthem started their set with a hooky original tune called "Picking Wildflowers.” The group, with roots in Chester and Bethlehem, got their start at the Nightingale Acoustic Café.
“We played at the open mic there and it went well. We’re now playing three to four nights a week across the state and even Nashville,” said band member Grace Cuccia.
“It’s great to be here for this event,” added bandmate Sophia Malli. “Make Music Day is such a good idea. I think we could all use a little more music. And it’s a beautiful summer day.”
Make Music Day was started in 1982, on the Summer Solstice, by the Ministry of Culture in France. The idea was that everyone in the entire country, regardless of talent, should celebrate togetherness by playing and singing music anywhere and everywhere. The concept blossomed and Make Music Day has become an artistic exercise celebrated across the world, connecting folks from various cultures through the language of song.
In southeastern Connecticut, Make Music Day has been popular for several years. The region’s abundance of musicians and happy-to-participate Every-persons, in conjunction with participating live music venues, businesses and churches, means the holiday has significant traction.
The Old Lyme stroll, though, has added a charming and effective element to the idea of general celebration.
Chas Orr and Amy Griswold, who recently relocated from Florida to Niantic and were attending Make Music Day with local relatives, were impressed.
“This is our first time,” Orr said. “We love music of all kinds and it’s just a great thing when you’re walking down the street in this lovely town and there’s music everywhere.”
While the performances were consistently excellent, JZ and Company, an eclectic acoustic trio with fine harmonies and instrumentation, was drawing particularly well. Of course, it’s true they were playing in front of the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe. Who could resist a fine rendition of “Satin Doll” and a cone?
“We were here last year and it was a lot of fun. I love that the town does this and supports the arts,” said Nancy Holloway, who lives in Springfield, Mass., but vacations annually in Old Lyme. “The thing is, I’d forgotten about it today. We had some beach time and decided we’d have ice cream for dinner – and here’s this wonderful band.”
For the record, Holloway was contemplating the crème brûlée flavor as the perfect frozen-treat accompaniment to the music.
On a side porch of the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library, the duo Two of Us entertained while visitors examined possibilities from an outdoor book sale. As Mike Prill and Gina DiGuardia walked by with their dog Bentley, they talked about last year’s stroll.
“We heard there’s a post-event jam session when a lot of the musicians get together and play,” Prill said. “Maybe it’s a word-of-mouth thing? But I’d like to see that.”
“This whole idea is just a perfect summer solstice thing to do,” DiGuardia said. “The weather’s perfect and it fits the idea of the start of summer.”
In front of Town Hall, with the sounds of hometown music star Braiden Sunshine singing a Jim Croce song from across the street in front of Center School, John Stratton of the town’s Economic Development Commission, was tending an information booth.
“This has become a really popular event,” Stratton said. “There are generations of people. Young parents pushing strollers, older folks, dogs … Everywhere you go, there’s music. It’s a great way to spend a summer evening.”
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