Piano Park

The Elgie Woods Piano Park will see its popular “Music at the Park” series return this year, with a concert by Back Porch Strings this Thursday at 7 p.m.

For several years, the Elgie Woods Piano Park, standing at the corner of College and East Oak Streets, was home to beautiful music in the summertime. Like many things, that went away with the arrival of COVID concerns.

This coming week, however, the music is back.

This Thursday, August 11, local string quartet Back Porch Strings will be performing at the park, which was built on the site where the home of notable late piano teacher Woods used to stand and features a unique piano-shaped fountain as its most prominent feature.

Dennis Crist is retired as Somerset Planning & Zoning manager, the position from which he created the park and the “Music in the Park” small concert series that took place there for years.

Nevertheless, he’s still involved with that concept, calling it his “pride and joy,” and is working to get the series back up and running again.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get very many (dates at the park) this year ... I’m hoping to get some more booked,” said Crist. “Next year, we’re going to come back full-bore.

“It will get back up and going,” he added. “... I’ve already got people from out of state calling (interested in participating). We’ve got national recognition on this thing.”

The series traditionally ended around September, so there would only be room for a couple more dates anyway this year, he noted.

The concerts had not been held since 2019, as the summer series in 2020 would have started after the COVID shutdowns began.

“We have a lot of elderly people coming there, and I didn’t want to take the chance of getting anybody infected,” said Crist.

This Thursday at 7 p.m., Back Porch Strings will be performing a variety of genres, everything from Beethoven to The Beatles.

Bill McNeil plays the violin in the group, along with his former student and young violin talent Maia Loiacono, and two other local teachers — Patty Isaacs on the viola and Lynn Shearer on cello.

“We call ourselves ‘Back Porch Strings,’ because we play on Patti’s back porch quite a bit,” said McNeil.

He noted that he’s pleased to be a part of getting “Music at the Park” up and going again.

“I’ve been involved with that and been on that stage several times with different groups and have been to a lot of the concerts,” he said. “They’re just delightful. It gives the neighborhood a chance to get together and enjoy themselves and an event that’s going on.”

The event Thursday at the park is free to the public. People are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating.

In case of bad weather, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will be used as a back-up location, said McNeil.

Other Piano Park events will be announced as they are scheduled.

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