If you’re a dinosaur like me who grew up as a child on the old East Side, the trolley station across from the entrance to Swan Point Cemetery has always been a special place of mystery. As kids, it was a place for secret meetings, hide and seek and pivotal destinations for impromptu snow ball fights.
Over the years, the building fell into disrepair, something that actually added to the allure of the place for many of us. A few years back, however, through the determined efforts of preservationists and most specifically the Blackstone Park Improvement Association, sanity returned and the building was restored. Now, the old trolley station is a true work of art. Even better, it is now being used for a focal point for special East Side activities, especially in the summer. Perhaps the best event is beginning this month with a series of five outdoor concerts that will run into August. Better still, all five concerts will feature home grown talent from right here in Providence and the East Side.
Called “In Concert with Nature,” the first concert takes place on June 19.
June 19: Classical High School Jazz and Classical music groups.
July 10: The Tish Adams Quartet-Blues and Jazz.
July 24: Latin Jazz Featuring Wendy Klein
August 7: Motown Lead by Allan Raskin, MD, an East Side resident who also directs the Classical High School Jazz Ensemble.
August 21: Miss Wensday & the Cotillions, one of the area’s most provocative and entertaining groups.
There are several East Side elements to this series, in addition obviously to its location, that make it a uniquely Providence event. First off, most of the featured entertainers are East Siders, each of whom boasts an enthusiastic following of music lovers who will attest to their individual artistry. All are professionals, save for the Classical High students, which leads to another interesting story.
Longtime Blackstone Boulevard residents Sandra and Richard Bornstein have always had a special place in their charitable giving for both music and Classical. A proud Classical alum himself (class of ’67), Richard got involved five years ago, when it became apparent that high school music programs in Providence were about to succumb to educational cutbacks. The Bornsteins generously agreed to provide the funds to ensure Classical could maintain its music program. To date, their donations have supported a school choir, an orchestra and a jazz ensemble, the latter of which will kick off this year’s trolley festival. Their skills will be on display during the first concert. Providence based professionals Tish Adams, Wendy Klein, Allan Raskin and Miss Wensday will perform in the subsequent concerts. All are well respected within the local musical community, which explains the success of the series as it continues to expand.
The series is the outgrowth of volunteer efforts begun five years ago by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy. It’s a group that has been working in partnership with the City of Providence since 2000 whose objective is to maintain and enhance Blackstone Boulevard and the Blackstone Park Conservation District, the 45-acre park that runs along River Road.
For the concert itself, the Conservancy rents out 100 chairs for each concert, provides police support and even invites food trucks to add to the festivities. Picnic dinners, lawn chairs and blankets are encouraged as well for this family friendly event. In the past, some 300 attendees have made the series something special. Butler Hospital has generously supported these concerts from the beginning. Miriam was a co-sponsor last year.
Gale Aronson is the concert producer and is chairperson of the Blackstone Boulevard Committee under the Blackstone Parks Conservancy. Jane Peterson is the President.