It's summertime and the music is easy listening--if you like your concerts with some grass underneath and some sky above.
The longer days usher in a slew of outdoor musical opportunities--many of them free. You can inhale bluegrass and jazz under the giant oaks at Conejo Community Park in Thousand Oaks, or groove with some classic rock 'n' roll at Constitution Park in Camarillo.
But if you want a more traditional experience, you can still spread out a blanket on the grass, dig into a picnic basket and hear an old-fashioned band concert. Community bands in Ojai and Camarillo play everything from Sousa marches to show tunes.
People seem enamored with this throwback to wholesome early Americana. 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 its town's outdoor bandstand the last 65 years.
The Ojai Band started with 20 musicians and 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 turn-of-the-century 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 24. 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 out-of-doors 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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From Shakespeare to Steel Drums
This selection of outdoor concerts should satisfy a range of musical tastes:
* The Camarillo Arts Council's free summer concerts are at 7 p.m. at Constitution Park, Paseo Camarillo and Carmen Drive. Information: 987-7847.
Sunday, Steel Parade--calypso, reggae and rock on steel drums; July 26, Instant Replay--music from the '60s; Aug. 16, California Cajun Orchestra; Sept. 6, "Tribute to Elvis."
* Conejo Recreation and Park District offers its free summer concerts and performing arts series at Conejo Community Park, Dover and Hendrix avenues. All events start at 5 p.m. Information: 381-2747.
July 19, Shakespeare's classic tale, "The Merry Wives of Windsor;" July 20, John McEuen--bluegrass, salsa; Aug. 17, Jazz Crusaders; Sept. 1, Conejo Pops Orchestra.
* City of Ventura presents its "Music Under the Stars" series at Olivas Adobe courtyard. Shows at 7 p.m. Tickets $8 for adults, $6 for children. Information: 658-4726.
Saturday, Estrada Brothers--Latin jazz; July 19, Cyrus Clarke Band--acoustic folk; July 26, Nuestro--salsa; Aug. 2, Rincon Ramblers--bluegrass, acoustic; Aug. 9, "Phantom of the Opera"--silent movie with musical accompaniment; Aug. 16, Buzzworld--Celtic; Aug. 23, New West--cowboy; Aug. 30, Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan--blues.
* Ventura Harbor Village has free outdoor concerts during the summer on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
* The Heritage Square summer concert series has events scheduled Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m. at 7th and B streets. Lawn seating is free, plaza seating $1. Information: 483-7960.