It's summertime and the music is easy listening--if you like your concerts with some grass underneath and some sky above.
The long summer days usher in a slew of outdoor musical opportunities, many of them free.
In the Valley you can inhale bluegrass and blues amid lush eucalyptus groves at the Peter Strauss Ranch in Agoura Hills, or groove with some Cajun fun at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank.
There's also the free Concerts in the Park series at Warner Park in Woodland Hills through Aug. 31.
In Ventura County, community bands in Ojai and Camarillo play everything from Sousa marches to show tunes.
People seem to be enamored of this throwback to an earlier, more wholesome America. The Ojai Band packs in audiences of more than 1,000 for its weekly concerts during the summer.
"We try to stay absolutely with the way it's always been--we're really pretty pure," said Sara Beeby, who organized the band in 1991 after seeing a New England band that had performed in a town's outdoor bandstand for 65 years.
The Ojai Band started with 20 musicians, and the group has blossomed to about 55. Through Beeby's efforts, the band now performs in a new $57,000 bandstand in downtown Libbey Park.
This season the free concerts are scheduled every Wednesday through Aug. 27 in the oak-canopied park. They run from 8 to 9:30 p.m. At the July 23 concert, a barbershop quartet will also perform.
Like other community bands, the Ojai Band draws volunteer musicians, many of them older folks, but a growing number of young students are also filling the ranks. Under the direction of Nordhoff High School's band director, Bill Wagner, the band plays Boston Pops-style pieces, traditional patriotic marches and show tunes.
Audiences, many of them families, go as much for the old-time ambience as the music. They stretch out on blankets and in lawn chairs. Kids can buy helium balloons for old-fashioned prices--25 cents--along with popcorn and lemonade.
For kids, the highlight is the children's march, an idea Beeby took from the venerable Chatham, Mass., band. With balloons in hand, they line up--sometimes as many as 300--and march around the park to a rousing tune.
It's a similar scene in Camarillo, where the Camarillo Community Band performs during the summer at Constitution Park next to City Hall. Here the kids are invited to come up to the bandstand at one point and they actually take over for band director Kirk Raymond. Using straws, some 60 to 70 kids wave their arms around and "conduct" the band.
Now in its 12th year, the band has 53 musicians and their performances bring crowds of 500 to 700. This summer they will play on two Sundays: Aug. 17 and 25. The free concerts start at 3 p.m.
The band delivers light classics, show tunes, marches, along with some big band tunes from the 1940s and Broadway hits. They'll do a Glenn Miller medley, and another audience favorite: music from "Phantom of the Opera," complete with an ear-splitting scream provided by one of the musicians.
The outdoors is filled with music this summer. All you have to do is load up the ice chest, pack a picnic and grab a lawn chair.
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This selection of outdoor concerts should satisfy a range of musical tastes:
The National Park Service provides free Sunday concerts at Peter Strauss ranch from 2 to 4 p.m.
Sunday, Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan--blues and ragtime; Aug. 10, Angel City Chorus and Ken and Phee Graydon--folk; Sept. 14, Hodge Family Bluegrass Band, Giacpuzzi Family Band and Ryestraw, a teenage bluegrass band.
The Starlight Bowl offers Sunday concerts at 6:30 p.m. through Sept. 6. Admission is $2. Information, 238-5300.
The free concert series at Warner Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., features an array of community bands through Aug. 31. Information, 704-1587.
The Camarillo Arts Council's free summer concerts are at 7 p.m. at Constitution Park, at Paseo Camarillo and Carmen Drive. Information, (805) 987-7847.
Saturday: Steel Parade--calypso, reggae and rock on steel drums; July 26, Instant Replay--music from the '60s; Aug. 16, California Cajun; Sept. 6, Tribute to Elvis.
Conejo Recreation and Park District offers its free summer concerts and performing arts series at Conejo Community Park, at Dover and Hendrix avenues. All events start at 5 p.m. Information, (805) 381-2747.
July 19, Shakespeare's classic tale, "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; July 20, John McEuen--bluegrass, salsa music; Aug. 17, Jazz Crusaders; Sept. 1, Conejo Pops Orchestra.
Brandeis-Bardin Institute's summer concert series, "Under the Stars," continues on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Information, (805) 582-4450.
July 20, Terry Gibbs--jazz; Aug. 3, classical works by film composers; Aug. 24, Debbie Friedman--vocalist and guitarist.
The city of Moorpark is offering two free concerts from 4 to 6 p.m. at Arroyo Vista Community Park. Information, (805) 531-9100.
July 27, Cody Bryant--country western; Aug. 17, Freeway Philharmonic--jazz, pop.