to the park for the first time in nearly two years with an in-person audience.
The popularseries was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, preventing people from flocking to the Lancaster city park to enjoy the free weekly concerts.
Starting with tonight’s performance, David Wauls, president of the Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation, is looking forward to giving the community an opportunity to move forward from the past year through music.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for people to get back to enjoying life,” Wauls said. “We have to realize that life does go on… We’re giving people an opportunity to move forward in life and realize that there are times that we can move forward and have a positive impact on each and everybody’s life through music.”
This year marks the 59th that Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation has been providing community entertainment through the Long’s Park Summer Music Series. In 1962, the Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation was created as a nonprofit to organize community entertainment events.
Its main events include the Summer Music Series and the Labor Day weekend Summer Art Festival, which funds the summer concerts.
“[The summer music series has] become one of the gemstones of Lancaster County,” Brad Zuke, chair of the summer music committee, said.
hile the 2021 summer music series is starting five weeks late , Wauls said he’s excited for live music to return to the community.
“This year, looking ahead, we were trying to make the decision in January and February of what the summer would look like, and just thought trying to start in June would be a little too ambitious and maybe not safe,” Zuke said.
Wauls explained that they weren’t able to have the Patriotic Concert this year due to the COVID-19 protocols being lifted too late for them to have time to pull the event together.
Last year virtual concerts were held instead. Some bands did perform onstage, although the audience remained at home, while other bands performed from their homes/studios or submitted footage of past concerts.
Bakithi Kumalo’s Graceland Experience will kick off the 2021 Long’s Park Summer Music Series, performing at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
The Long’s Park Summer Music Series Committee strives to bring good quality music that represents a variety of genres including rock, blues, jazz, pop, country and more, Zuke said.
“One aspect of our concert series is that it’s pretty rare that we have musicians return … because we’re always trying to bring in new musicians,” Zuke said.
The committee of about eight people typically begins meeting around November or December of each year to start planning the following summer’s concert series. That’s when they start reaching out to booking agents, determining which bands they can afford and building a schedule for the summer.
The Summer Music Series is funded almost entirely by sponsors, donations and ticket sales from the art festival. Long’s Park is restricted to being used for only free events.
“It’s all to make Lancaster a more livable place,” Zuke said, explaining their labor of love.
A typical concert with decent weather will have an audience of anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 attendees. One of Long’s Park’s largest attended concerts was Arlo Guthrie in 2017, Zuke estimated brought out about 12,000 to 13,000 concertgoers.
He recounted a time when a band from Virginia, The Steel Wheels, was performing and a storm began, resulting in all power being cut off in the amphitheater.
“(The band) just invited anybody who was still there to come up on stage. They moved to the back of the stage … and they just performed acoustically with no electricity for the next 30 or so minutes,” Zuke said.
Jack Nissley, owner of Live Sound Productions, has been doing Long’s Park Summer Music Series audio since 1988.
The sound crew began moving sound equipment into the amphitheater weeks ago, Wauls said, and they will arrive around 10 or 11 a.m. the day of for a 7:30 concert.
“The Load Out” speaking of the sound crew, saying, “They’re the first to come and they’re the last to leave.”
Nissley, 65, of Mount Joy Township, first got involved with Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation when he met Jeff Woods, who did the audio there before him.
Nissley has always enjoyed doing audio for nonprofit organizations, and though he said it may not have been the most financially successful strategy, it is the most rewarding decision.
Prior to Nissley joining the foundation, he had also done audio for The Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz and Music of Gretna, two other nonprofit music organizations.
“A lot of the small, nonprofit presenters of music struggle,” Nissley said. “It’s very difficult for them to find the support, you know, to support the arts. It’s hard to support the arts in general. And so, I built my career around nonprofits, because they always had the best music, and that was my primary interest.”
Live Sound Productions uses a Harrison audio console, which is the type of console The Rolling Stones traveled with for 20 years and that Michael Jackson used to record his album “Thriller.”
Nissley said that his favorite concert he has done audio for at Long’s Park was Brand X in 2017 a jazz band, because their performance ended up being the first official album released from a Long’s Park concert.
“Most people don’t care about the idiom of jazz, but it’s America’s only original creative musical art form,” Nissley said.
He pitched Brand X to the music committee and was able to book them for the summer concert series. When they came to Long’s Park, Live Sound Productions recorded the concert on their Harrison and had the audio mixed and mastered by Stephen Patterson at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. Nissley said he would love to do more projects like that, but it is hard to find the financial support.
“Even though it’s a lot of work on everybody’s part,” Wauls said, “it’s exciting to know we’re going to have live music back in Long’s Park… It’s really important that people have the live music opportunities again.”
See upcoming Long’s Park concerts here.