Summer sounds in the open air

The courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts is an intimate summer venue. Bluegrass band Cherryholmes (pictured) played last year. The courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts is an intimate summer venue. Bluegrass band Cherryholmes (pictured) played last year. (Rich Gastwirt)
By James Reed and Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / July 17, 2011

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Given how brief our summers are, music fans will surely want to seize any pleasurable opportunity to groove at a concert under the sun and stars. To that end, here’s a partial list of al fresco shows, many of them free, happening around the Greater Boston area in the next few weeks.


Museum of Fine Arts. 800-440-6975,

When a breeze kicks up in the MFA’s courtyard and you’re sitting on the cool grass with a band playing directly in front of you . . . well, summer in the city doesn’t get much better. This year’s Concerts in the Courtyard series features everything from gypsy jazz (Hot Club of San Francisco, July 20) and Ethiopian dance bands (Debo Band with Fendika and NOMO, July 27) to alt-country (Tift Merritt with Bill Janovitz, Aug. 10) and indie rock (Mirah with Faces on Film, Aug. 17).


Various parks and outdoor venues across Cambridge. 617-349-4380, www.cambridgeartscouncil .org

Storytellers, reggae bands, puppet shows, dance groups, and movie nights are all part of the festivities the Cambridge Arts Council has in store this summer. Best of all? The events are free and family-friendly. Don’t miss Eric Royer as an extraordinary one-man roots band (July 28 at East Cambridge Savings Bank parking lot, 292 Cambridge St.) or a children’s morning workshop with Israeli-born, Boston-based musician Guy Mendilow (Aug. 3 at the Greene-Rose Heritage Park). In case of rain, confirm that the event hasn’t moved indoors or to an alternate day.


Boston Public Library. 617-536-5400,

For once you’ll be excused if you’re hooting and hollering so close to the library. This annual lunchtime concert series is well underway, offering free outdoor performances every Friday at 12:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the Central Library in Copley Square. Highlights include local singer-songwriter Will Dailey (July 22), followed by the eclectic world-music ensemble Aires de Argentina (July 29). Bring your own lunch, or pick up something from one of the library’s two restaurants. If raining, the concerts move to the Rabb Lecture Hall.


Palmer Street, near Club Passim, Cambridge. 617-492-5300,

No longer just a place to hear folk, Club Passim has become a wonderful listening room for all types of music. That diversity is reflected in its free lunchtime concert series. From 1 to 2 p.m. every Thursday through mid-September, this series hosts a range of artists, from regal singer-songwriters (Kim Taylor, Aug. 4) to acoustic troubadours (Dietrich Strause, Aug. 11) to indie folk-rockers (Raining Jane, Aug. 25). With its focus on local talent, the series is a good opportunity to gauge what’s happening in Boston’s roots scene.


Institute of Contemporary Art. 617-478-3100, www.icaboston .org

The music is almost as panoramic as the harbor views that provide the dramatic backdrop for this seasonal series. In partnership with Berklee College of Music, the ICA’s free summer concerts showcase the school’s up-and-coming talent, including the jazz ensemble Sons of Daughters (July 21), folk-pop singer Emily Elbert (July 28), saxophonist-vocalist Grace Kelly (Aug. 25), and rising bluegrass revivalists Sierra Hull & Highway 111 (Sept. 1). Through Sept. 8, the series runs every Thursday, 6-8:30 p.m., on the Putnam Investments Plaza.

REGATTABAR’S SUMMER COURTYARD MUSIC SERIES Regattabar’s upper courtyard, Charles Hotel, Cambridge. 617-661-5000, www.regattabarjazz .com Alumni and students from the Berklee College of Music are featured in this free weekly series, which takes place Mondays, 6-8 p.m., through the end of August at the hotel. The Jazz Tellers get busy with improvisation (July 25), vocalist Nadia Washington puts her quartet through its paces (Aug. 15), and Creative Music Front mixes up a melting pot of jazz, funk, Latin rhythms, European harmonies, and Asian influences (Aug. 22).

WODS FREE SUMMER CONCERT SERIES/LANDMARKS FESTIVAL AT THE SHELL DCR Hatch Shell. /dcr Combining two alluring elements - a lovely summer night on the banks of the Charles River and free music - the Hatch Shell offers vintage tunes this summer. Oldies station WODS 103.3 is sponsoring a few shows, including Eddie Money (July 23) and disco kings K.C. and the Sunshine Band (Aug. 20). A wide array of composers will be featured at the Boston Landmarks Orchestra performances taking place Wednesdays at 7 p.m. through the end of August, including Tchaikovsky (July 20) and Vivaldi and Piazzolla (July 27). For a full listing go to The bands have yet to be announced, but Mix 104.1 will hold its annual Mixfest at the Hatch Shell on Sept. 17.

ELMA LEWIS PLAYHOUSE IN THE PARK Franklin Park. 617-442-4141, If it’s a Tuesday in July, there’s entertainment at the famed Boston park. The evening options, with shows starting at 6 p.m., range from the jazz of Frank Wilkins & Friends (July 19) to the hot Afro-Caribbean sounds of Zili Misik (July 26). In the mornings at 11 a.m. families can enjoy Marcus Santos’ Grooversity Drummers (July 19) and the Estrellas Baton Twirlers (July 26).

CONCERT SERIES @ KENDALL SQUARE Kendall Square, 300 Athenaeum St., Cambridge. www.kendall If you’re free Tuesdays or Thursdays between noon and 2 p.m. and are in the neighborhood, this returning series, which runs through September, offers a diverse group of artists, genres, and performance styles. (Thursday performances are cosponsored by Berklee College of Music.) Options include guitarist and singer-songwriter Emily Elbert (July 28), pop singer Kiesza (Aug. 11), sax phenom Grace Kelly (Aug. 25), and the wide-open jazz of the Mark Whitfield Jr. Quartet (Sept. 8).

ROCK AND BLUES CONCERT CRUISES World Trade Center Pier, 200 Seaport Blvd. 617-431-1175, Hit the open water and get your groove on through Aug. 21 with this perennial harbor music cruise series. The shows set sail at 3 p.m. and include heavy rockers the Nate Wilson group (this afternoon), the ecstatic dance jams of Booty Vortex’s Carnivale (July 24), the fab sounds of Beatles tribute band Beatlejuice (Aug. 14), and local party band favorites Entrain (Aug. 21).

James Reed can be reached at Sarah Rodman can be reached at