Maggie A's Meanderings

 
 

 

 

 June 17, 2012

The Sounds of Pensacola:  Evenings in Olde Seville Square

Update March 2013: I'm very happy to say that Evenings in Olde Seville Square has been saved. A local non-profit, Events Pensacola, has been formed to save this concert series and will put on 12 concerts from May 23 to Aug 1 this year. The new website is eveningsinoldesevillesquare.com

Evenings in Olde Seville Square Logo"Evenings in Olde Seville Square," the original free concert series in Pensacola, is coming to a close with its 25th and final season this summer.

Evenings in Olde Seville Square 25th Anniversary logoThat "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" made it to twenty-five years is a remarkable accomplishment considering that "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" isn't government sponsored. It's put on by the non-profit Pensacola Heritage Foundation. The Pensacola Heritage Foundation is responsible for much of the restoration of downtown Pensacola which started back in the 1960s. They also held the original "An Evening in Olde Seville Square" celebration which ran from 1966 to 1972 and was the precursor to today's weekly summer concert series. The modern "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" was started in 1988 by Jim Tanck who chaired the concerts until his death in 2007. For this final season "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" runs May 17 to August 2, Thursdays from 7:00 to 9:00 in Seville Square park. (click for schedule)



Evenings in Olde Seville Square concert
"Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concert

I realized just how much "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" meant to me when I heard the news this was to be its last year and my stomach dropped. With the ending of this Pensacola tradition, it seems the perfect time to reflect............

When I moved to Pensacola in those early years there were three things that made me realize how much nicer Pensacola was than where I'd grown up in Mississippi.

tree braceThe first was the very night I moved into my apartment. I went to the conveniently located Delchamps (a regional grocery chain, now defunct) to pick up some cleaning supplies and basic groceries. Mentally I calculated how much the total would be, but at the check-out it was less than I had figured. That was because, unlike Mississippi which charges sales tax on everything, Florida didn't charge sales tax on groceries.

The second was my first sight of the Pensacola beach. I was expecting it to look like the beach and water in Mississippi --- a narrow, flat beach with dirty looking sand and dirty water that didn't smell very pleasant. When I caught my first glimpse of Pensacola's pure, white sand and jewel-like green water, I literally gasped in amazement. I hadn't seen water that looked like that since we were stationed at a military base on an island in the Pacific Ocean (in our pre-Mississippi years) and we had our one & only holiday at the island's beach.

The third thing that made me realize how much nicer Pensacola was than Mississippi was when a co-worker told me about "Evenings in Olde Seville Square." I didn't quite believe him. I didn't have any reason to think he was lying, but a free concert, open to the public? Not just one concert, but a series of concerts through the summer? I guess you could describe my reaction as incredulous. The entire time I'd lived in Mississippi there hadn't been one single free concert (unless you want to count that time they bussed a bunch of school kids from the county to the Coliseum to hear a symphony orchestra --- but that wasn't open to the public). Where I grew up in Mississippi we had parades for the holidays and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Never any free public concerts. I didn't fully believe what I was told until I was shown the schedule, pinned to the hallway bulletin board, of the "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concerts.........there it was, a concert series with concerts scattered throughout the summer. (At the time, it wasn't a weekly event.) I thought how utterly charming it was.

popcornI had never heard of anywhere besides big cities having free public concerts. Once I was older and had a little more knowledge of history, I could see where this concert series hearkened back to the late 19th and early 20th century where small towns would have concerts in the town square bandstand.

And going to "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" is very much an updated version of those old bandstand concerts................

It's families and picnics and children playing. (No pet dogs allowed in the park itself, but that's only a technicality as people have the dogs across the street from the park.) The concerts always open with the national anthem, the American flag and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance ----- just as I imagine the concerts of yore used to do. (Though not exactly......Likely a flag and some kind of patriotic ceremony as the Pledge of children playing in sandboxAllegiance* wasn't written until 1892. The phrase "under God" wasn't added until 1954. And the United States didn't have an actual national anthem until 1931.) The only thing they aren't doing is shooting off a town cannon. (Seville Square doesn't have a cannon, and nowadays you couldn't shoot it off if it did.) The band even performs in a gazebo; there's your bandstand for you. There's dancing on the brick walkway. There's hotdogs and popcorn (priced $1.00 a box for twenty-five years). There are drawings with prizes donated by local businesses. (These can be some good prizes though you have to be a member of the Pensacola Heritage Foundation's Olde Seville Square Club to be eligible.) Since it's privately funded, "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" is heavily dependent upon sponsoring businesses who are heavily plugged during the concerts, and I expect that also happened in the concerts of yore. I can imagine a hardware store or a general store or even the local bank sponsoring concerts back in the day.

Pledge of Allegiance
The children are invited up to the gazebo to help lead the Pledge of Allegiance

gazebo in Seville Square parkTo step into "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" is to step back in time to some more idyllic era. If the city of Pensacola has a heart, an equivalent of the old town Old Christ Church, Pensacola, Floridasquare, it's definitely Seville Square and the two adjoining parks: Fountain Park and Bartram Park. Many of the events and festivals are held in these parks. Centered in the historic district of downtown Pensacola, across the street is the white steepled Old Christ Church built in 1832. The park itself is a living piece of Southern history filled with the live oaks that the Deep South landscape is so famous for. It is the essence of a gentile, small Southern city park. The brown gazebo with its red brick base and green top harmoniously blends with the brown of the fallen leaves, the green of the manicured lawn, and the rust-red of the brick walkway as it's all overarched by the horizontal branches of the live oaks. 



Seville Square marker



*
NOTE:
The original Pledge of Allegiance as written by Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) in August 1892 and published September 8, 1892, in "The Youth's Companion" magazine:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The following month, "the Republic" became "to the Republic." (That is the version I recite.)
In 1923, "the Flag of the United States of America" was added at the National Flag Conference led by the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution. (Bellamy, the Pledge's author, did not like the change.)
Louis A. Bowman claimed to be the first person to have added "under God" to the pledge in 1948. (However, he made that claim in 1955, so take it with a grain of salt as I'd need independent proof before I'm swallowing it.) It is known that in 1951 the all-male, Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus began a campaign, petitioning the White House and Congress, to have "under God" officially added to the Pledge. The campaign caught on and eventually was successful. On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law. (Bellamy's granddaughter said her grandfather would not have liked that addition either.)
References:
John W. Baer, "The Pledge of Allegiance A Short History," (accessed June 2012).
John W. Baer, "The Pledge of Allegiance A Revised History and Analysis, 2007" "An exerpt from Chapter Eight: "Under God" and Other Questions About the Pledge," (accessed June 2012).
"The Pledge of Allegiance," Independence Hall Association, (accessed June 2012).
"Pledge of Allegiance," Wikipedia, (accessed June 2012).



Activities

On concert nights, the park is bustling with activity. There can be 10,000 people at "Evenings in Olde Seville Square."
(I give my usual caveat that I am not a photographer and I only have a point-and-shoot camera.
To my usual caveat I add: my camera doesn't like it when it's not full daylight and this is "Evenings in Olde Seville Square.")


picnickers
Picnicking is always a popular pastime. Many people bring dinner.
But for those who don't, there's barbecue and hotdogs along with popcorn and ice cream for sale.
If you're lucky, you could win the weekly "big" prize of a catered, sit-down dinner for six at next week's concert.
The restaurants adjoining the park can always count on doing brisk business on concert evenings.


picnic set-up at concert
For some concertgoers aesthetics are an important part of the experience.
People frequently celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries with birthday cakes and tables loaded with food.
(Sadly they never invite me to join them.)


Pretty picnic table at concert
This table was so pretty, I simply had to include a shot of it.


Dancers at Evenings in Olde Seville Square concert
Dancing is another popular activity though it depends on the band and the type of music being played.


Dancers at Evenings in Olde Seville Square concert
Dancers in Seville Square


dancers at Evenings in Olde Seville Square
And more dancers.


children dancing in Evenings in Olde Seville Square concert
The children also get into the dancing.


Dancer at Evenings in Olde Seville Square concert
I'm not sure what kind of dancing this was, but it was fun to watch.



hula-hooper
A group of hula-hoopers likes to show off their skills in Fountain Park.


child on top of swingschildren playing at Seville Square during the concert

Children playing during the concert.




children coloring a mural
Children coloring a mural of Pensacola landmarks.
From left to right it shows the Pensacola Beach sign, the Saenger Theatre, the Blue Angels and the Beachball Water Tower.


child coloring the mural
This little boy is having fun with the green marker.


blood donation
There's even a chance to do a good deed by donating blood as the Bloodmobile sets up at every concert.


portable chair swing
The most comfortable person at the concert --- I thought I'd seen it all until I saw this set-up.





Seville Square Tree Brace Sculptures

tree bracetree bracetree brace
There are three of these fanciful wooden statues used to brace the long, horizontal branches of the live oaks.
The statues are made from a part of Pensacola history as they're carved from a cedar tree that used to stand at the corner of Palafox and Garden streets.
The huge cedar was decorated every Christmas. When the cedar was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, sadly,
it had to be cut down.
But though the tree is gone, this beloved cedar remains a part of Pensacola here in Seville Square.
(Carvings by Mario Parra and Elizabeth Thompson of Escazu, Costa Rica, one of Pensacola's six sister cities)




The Bands

This section will be updated through the summer as I attend the concerts, so check back if you're interested.

(Missing from this section is the May 17 opening performance of the Pensacola Civic Band as I did not attend.)


Kitt Lough & Friends
Kitt Lough & Friends
May 24: Kitt Lough & Friends
A sensuous blend of jazz and bare feet in the park


Kitt Lough


Kitt Lough & Friend


Perdido Brass and Guffman Trio
Perdido Brass
May 31: Perdido Brass 
Two groups performed on May 31st. The first was Perdido Brass.
This versatile group of horns played classical, patriotic (Sousa's a must when it comes to horns), gospel and jazz.


Guffman Trio
May 31: Guffman Trio
The rest of the night, concertgoers were entertained with jazz played by the Guffman Trio plus a guest saxophonist.


Guffman Trio


Heritage
Heritage band
June 7: Heritage
A night of reggae made for a nice change of pace from jazz.
Heritage didn't just play reggae songs, but did cover music like 'Stand by Me" and "Land Down Under" in reggae style.


Heritage band


Heritage band


Reunion Band
Reunion Band
June 14: Reunion Band
On the first truly hot evening, the Reunion Band joined by the Palafox Horns had an instant crowd on the dance square with its 60s and 70s music.
It was so hot the dancers were fanning each other to cool off.
The night stayed uncomfortably hot & humid right up until a sudden cool breeze and a mass evacuation gave a two minute warning before the rain hit.
 

Reunion Band


Reunion Band


151st Army Band
151st Army Band
June 21: 151st Army Band
With a mix of patriotic and pop music the 151st Army Band entertained on a muggy and buggy evening.
The patriotic included Sousa (of course) and a salute to all the branches of the military. The pop included a selection of Disney music.
 With members from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, the 151st Army Band is a National Guard unit based in Montgomery, Alabama.
As the commercials go, the National Guard --- one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This was part of their two weeks (actually 15 days).
After the first hour, the Jazz Band section closed out the night with a mix of standards (Peter Gunn, Frank Sinatra) and pop (Earth, Wind and Fire, the Beatles).


151st Army Band


151st Army Band


Mr. Big & The Rhythm Sisters
Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters
June 28: Mr. Big & The Rhythm Sisters
The first time I saw this group was earlier this year and my reaction was, "Where did they come from?" as they were an immediate favorite.
If you can remember the days when a group would have a lead singer and back-up singers that do choreographed dancing
(think "Gladys Knight and the Pips" or "Tony Orlando and Dawn") that's Mr. Big & The Rhythm Sisters.
Except The Rhythm Sisters are also lead vocalists as well as dancers.
With a repertoire that includes Dixieland, classic rock, pop, R&B, disco and jazz this is a high energy, fun band.


Mr. Big
Mr. Big


The Rhythm Sisters
The Rhythm Sisters


Parade
Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters Mardi Gras style parade
After the break, Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters playing the classic New Orleans song "Second Line" led a Mardi Gras style parade up to the bandstand.
(In the New Orleans tradition, the parade is the "first line" and everyone who follows behind them is the "second line.")


Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters Mardi Gras style parade


Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters Mardi Gras style parade


Conga Line
conga line
At the end of the evening, Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters got hundreds of people to do a conga line around the park.


conga line


conga line


Don Snowden and the Pensacola Big Band All Stars with Holly Shelton
Don Snowden and the Pensacola Big Band All Stars with Holly Shelton
July 5: Don Snowden and the Pensacola Big Band All Stars with Holly Shelton
As you'd expect, it was big band music this night. The songs brought back a lot of memories for the senior citizens in the crowd.
But the memories weren't just for the audience. In the Big Band was someone who played the very first "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concert.
Back then the concerts were attended by only a couple of hundred people.
The Don Snowden Big Band with Holly Shelton has been a regular at "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" for as long as I can remember.
So this band was the most visibly affected by the knowledge that this was to be their last performance at "Evenings in Olde Seville Square."
Not surprisingly, they ended with a sentimental favorite, "I'll Be Seeing You," which expressed their deep emotions about "Evenings in Olde Seville Square."


Don Snowden and the Pensacola Big Band All Stars with Holly Shelton
Don Snowden -- Don plays "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" three times during the season.
First as the director of the Pensacola Civic Band, next as part of Perdido Brass and finally he plays with his Big Band.


Don Snowden and the Pensacola Big Band All Stars with Holly Shelton
Holly Shelton, the vocalist for the Big Band


Sawmill Band
Sawmill Band
July 12: Sawmill Band
The Sawmill Band is exclusively country music. It performs both traditional and modern country.
Sawmill Band has a changing roster of singers who take turns singing lead.
Some also do double/triple duty by singing background vocals and/or playing instruments.


Sawmill Band's roster of lead singers
I did attempt to find out the names for the lead singers, but the Sawmill Band's homepage hasn't worked in years, and it's still not working.
What's the point in having a webpage if you don't bother to maintain it and don't notice it hasn't worked in years?


Sawmill Band's roster of lead singers


Guest vocalist Robert Wayne performs with the Sawmill Band
Robert Wayne of Robert Wayne and the No Name Band was a guest vocalist for the night.


Sawmill Band's roster of lead singers


Sawmill Band's roster of lead singers


Chloe Channell of Sawmill Band
At 10 years old Chloe Channell is the Sawmill Band's youngest lead singer though she's been singing with the band for years.


Lisa Kelly & The JB Scott Quintet
Lisa Kelly & The JB Scott Quintet
July 19: Lisa Kelly & The JB Scott Quintet
After a long rainy day, the rain stopped early enough for the concert to go forward.
Unfortunately the rain with the threat of more rain kept most of the people away on what was finally a pleasantly cool evening.
The night opened with an interesting arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner with the high notes lowered to be in Lisa Kelly's range.
(Perfectly understandable as I've always said you either have to be a professional opera singer......or drunk......to sing our national anthem.
The opera singer has the range to hit the notes and the drunk doesn't care when they miss them. The rest of us can't sing it, not properly.)
It was back to Jazz this night with the Jazz sometimes infused with bossa nova or swing accompanied by a lot of vocal sound effects.
The core of this ensemble is a husband and wife from Jacksonville, Florida.
left to right:
Peter Wehner, Dave Steinmeyer, JB Scott, Jeff Phillips and Lisa Kelly


Lisa Kelly & The JB Scott Quintet
Lisa Kelly


Lisa Kelly & The JB Scott Quintet
JB Scott (right) with Dave Steinmeyer (left)


The Swingin' Dick Tracys
The Swingin' Dick Tracys
July 26: The Swingin' Dick Tracys
The motto of The Swingin' Dick Tracys is "Crime Plays." But their playing certainly wasn't a crime.
It was a night of music that went from smooth to swing.
If you were a fan of Michael Buble, you would have enjoyed their music selection as it included many of the standards.
But they also had some more unusual choices with several TV theme songs.
At one point, they asked for people to shout out their favorite Disney movie, then said the correct answer was The Jungle Book.
As a big fan of  "The Bare Necessities" (the "Hakuna Matata" before "Hakuna Matata"), I could see why a swing band would favor that soundtrack
as it has a lot of swing in it especially the song they performed, "I Wan'na Be Like You" (The Monkey Song).
Easily the most interesting song of the night was Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" done as swing.
That's not something I thought I'd ever hear. Just like I thought I'd never see people so old I doubt they've heard of Nirvana swing dancing to that song.
I have to wonder what Kurt Cobain would have thought of it? I know I'd don't think I'll ever hear that song in quite the same way again.


The Swingin' Dick Tracys
The microphone looked like it could have been used when Dick Tracy was a radio show.
Reminiscent of Dean Martin, whose music he sang, the lead singer performed many of the songs with a martini glass in hand.
But, just like Dean Martin, I doubt it had any actual alcohol in it.


The Swingin' Dick Tracys
The brass section for The Swingin' Dick Tracys.
On the far right, the trumpet player was 17 and the trombonist was only 16.
During one song, they were singing "Go Daddy-O," and I had to laugh. It was funny to hear that phrase from someone so young.
The last time saying "Daddy-o" was hip was back when their grandparents were saying it.


Final "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" Concert:
McGuire's Pipe Band and Clark & Company
McGuire's Pipe Band
August 2: McGuire's Pipe Band
McGuire's Pipe Band traditionally opens the very first "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concert series, but had a conflict this year.
So even though it wasn't on the schedule, they were brought in to open the very last "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concert.


McGuire's Pipe Band
The band marched through Seville Square up to the dance area.....


McGuire's Pipe Band
....where they played a selection of music from Irish to patriotic to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."


Clark & Company
August 2: Clark & Company
The honor of closing out the "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" concerts always goes to Clark & Company.
Clark & Company is a family band and has been voted the favorite group in "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" for the past 14 years.
Clark & Company was also voted one of the 2010 Best Wedding Bands in North Florida by 21,000 brides
in a survey done by The Knot magazine and the Wedding Channel.
For these concerts they play mostly rock and pop with some disco.
But they'll also drop in some unexpected songs like the Sinatra standard "Fly Me to the Moon," Mary Chapin Carpenter's
Cajun "Down at the Twist and Shout," or straight country with Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
They do have some songs they always perform at these concerts, "Dancing Queen," "Electric Boogie" (Electric Slide) and "Conga" are a tradition.


Jonathan Clark and Cecil Clark of Clark & Company
The male half of Clark & Company, Jonathan Clark (left) and Cecil Clark (left)


Virginia Clark and Caroline Norman of Clark & Company
The female half of Clark & Company, Virginia Clark (left) and Caroline Norman (right)


Cecil Clark of Clark & Company
Cecil Clark, the patriarch of Clark & Company


Caroline Norma of Clark & Company
Caroline Norman, a lead vocalist and the only non-family member in Clark & Company


Jonathan Clark and Christina Clark of Clark & Company
After intermission, Christina Clark Frierdich joined Jonathan Clark for some fiddle music.
They did the best amateur rendition of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" that I've ever heard,
then followed up with the lovely and poignant "Ashokan Farewell" from Ken Burn's The Civil War series.



Volunteers
Pensacola Heritage Foundation "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" Volunteers
As mentioned, this concert is put on by the Pensacola Heritage Foundation.
During intermission, the volunteers who worked so hard to put on these concerts were introduced.
For the final two songs, Donna Summer's famous disco ballad, "Last Dance," and "The Time of My Life" from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack,
all the volunteers were invited onto the stage with the band.


Pensacola Heritage Foundation "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" Volunteers
Jim Green, the man in charge of organizing these concerts, is in the center dancing with Christina Clark Frierdich.
Jim Green has been involved with the concerts for the entire 25 years.
(On a side note, I wanted to thank Jim Green as he's been my contact for doing this piece
and for giving me permission to cross the rope lines in order to photograph.)


Pensacola Heritage Foundation "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" Volunteers
It was a night where no one wanted the music to stop. Instead of the usual 9:00, the band kept playing until after 9:30.
So the very last "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" didn't end in sadness, but with exuberance and a high note.


UPCOMING CONCERTS:
None
No organization has taken over "Evenings In Olde Seville Square," so it looks like the end of the concerts. 




With the loss of "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" the Pensacola public concert scene has been worse than decimated ---- it's been devastated. The city of Pensacola no longer does "Sunsets at Plaza de Luna" concerts which were also Thursday evenings downtown. (The city of Pensacola is too focused on it's new "toy" the baseball stadium; so if you prefer listening to free music to watching paid baseball, you're out of luck.) And the Santa Rosa Island Authority dropped the "Sounds of Summer" weekend concerts at the Boardwalk this year. So from six free concerts every week last summer, next summer Pensacola will be down to just one.....Tuesday nights' "Bands on the Beach." But, to me, the loss that hits the hardest, because it's part of my earlier memories of Pensacola, will be the loss of "Evenings in Olde Seville Square." Though I was never a regular goer, I will always remember these concerts as something special and am grateful to the Pensacola Heritage Foundation for putting them on for the past twenty-five years. These concerts had truly become part of Pensacola's heritage.
 

Music at Evenings in Olde Seville Square


"Evenings in Olde Seville Square" logos copyrighted by Pensacola Heritage Foundation. "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" 25th anniversary logo courtesy of Pensacola Heritage Foundation. Regular "Evenings in Olde Seville Square" logo used with permission.


For more about the Pensacola music scene, look in the Archive for "The Sounds of Pensacola" series including:
"
Bands on the Beach"
"Sounds of Summer"
"Summer Country Jam"
"Sunsets at Plaza de Luna"
"Summer Salute
and
"The Seductive Stylings of Songstress Holly Shelton."

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