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In Farmington and Farmington Hills, Music is in the Air

Free concerts start this month in downtown Farmington and Heritage Park.

It’s in the air.

Music is everywhere, and it’s free. Staring June 10 in Farmington, and June 23 in Farmington Hills, plan on attending a remarkable schedule of concerts that are at once charming and cheesy. To experience them is to take in a wonderful slice of Americana, while endlessly punching your people watching e-ticket.

Every Thursday beginning at 7 p.m., “Stars in the Park” offers up a variety of concert bands, big bands, rock and soul bands and community chorus performances in the amazing amphitheater in . Carved into the side of a grassy hill this venue includes a large, permanent stage with a sound system decent enough to reach the several hundred music lovers in the audience.

Families come to picnic on the lawn. Old folks perch on their folding chairs. Youngsters inevitably find open spots to roll down the hill. And any number of listeners who can contain themselves no longer invariably wander down to the foot of the stage to dance. The whole while, music creates an umbrella of sound over the audience. Surrounded by a dense, green stand of trees, the setting could not be lovelier. It’s the kind of place that if you stumbled over it in some other state or some other country, the quaint experience would blow you away.

Then on Fridays, also firing up at 7 p.m., “Rhythmz in Riley Park” presents a wider, wilder range of music in a somewhat more urban setting. Groups like The Paisley Fogg which claims to “toss in a little Janice and Grace”―if you don’t know who they are, don’t bother wearing your tie-dyed t-shirts and love beads―open the season. But they’re followed in later weeks by the smooth jazz renderings of the Paul Dozier Quartet and eventually by a group called the Kreelers, who play something called “Celtic Rock.” Whatever.

The same crowd you saw the night before at Heritage Park shows up at , except more people walk here from the neighborhoods close to downtown. What this venue offers, over and above the groovy tunes, is the collection of cafes and restaurants to tempt you before, during and after the show.

The point is that both of these free concert series are atypical opportunities for us to come together to share a hassle-free community experience. Around you are friends, neighbors, and people you’ve never seen before. There are babes in arms, gray headed sages and everyone in between, all sitting, listening and enjoying the same thing at the same time.

Some surreptitiously sip a cup of wine or munch on an ice cream cone that always tastes better when eaten outside. The music brushes away all of the world’s burdens, even if only for an hour or so, creating an atmosphere which encourages “harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding,” as the musical Hair recommends.

If you prefer to listen to your free music in the privacy of your home, office, car or earbuds, the “National Jukebox” is a website (http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/) you really should check out. Here, you’ll find the extraordinary recordings from the collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, and other contributing libraries.

Among the offerings are over 10,000 digitized 78 rpm disc sides issued by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1900 and 1925, all sorted by artist and genre, from opera to Tin Pan Alley. It’s really a remarkable archive that can suck just hours of your time up with surfing, listening and surfing some more. Of course, we all paid for this with our taxes, so it’s not exactly free. It just feels that way.

Summer’s here. The time is right for dancing in the street.

C.R.P.

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