Byline: Richard Duckett
WORCESTER -- Attendance was described as "much larger than expected.'' And as organist Stephen E. Long launched into the rousing opening of Arthur Foote's "Festival March,'' the first work on the program, William A. MacPherson, a music reviewer for the Worcester Telegram, noted that some in the audience were "munching along'' with the music.
On July 6, 1983, Mechanics Hall put on its first "Brown Bag'' concert.
The idea of a free downtown lunchtime music performance in a venerable concert hall went down well with people right from the start. It's still on the menu.
At noon, Wednesday, Nov. 6, the 30th anniversary Brown Bag Concert Series gets underway in Mechanics Hall with a performance by the Sarah McKenzie (Jazz) Quartet.
"The Brown Bag Concerts provide our audiences with a high-quality musical interlude in our world renowned concert hall during the middle of the day at no cost,'' said Mechanics Hall executive director Robert M. Kennedy. "This is our recipe for success, and it is made possible through the generous support of our generous friends and benefactors.''
For almost the entire 30 years, the Brown Bag concerts have been co-produced by Mechanics Hall and radio station WICN-FM (90.5). The shows are broadcast live on WICN and on the Web at www.wicn.org.
"WICN and our friends at Mechanics Hall know the importance of a culturally thriving downtown Worcester,'' said Gerry Weston, WICN general manager.
For that first performance, however, organizers weren't sure what the turnout would be. A few dozen? Eighty tops, perhaps?
An eight-performance series of organ recitals was planned for eight weeks that summer beginning each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. The Brown Bag Organ Recitals, as the series was first named, highlighted the hall's recently restored 1864 organ. The hall itself had been restored and rededicated just under six years previously after years of neglect. Concertgoers were encouraged to bring their own bagged lunches.
Mr. MacPherson reported that Richard F. Jones, then the organ curator at Mechanics Hall, introduced the concert by noting that since the organ and its restoration had been paid for by people in the community, the recital series was one way to "give the organ back to the citizens.'' Mr. MacPherson added that "citizens of every kind'' had indeed shown up.
"Organ recitals being what they are, we set up (eight) tables for a few dozen people, and several hundred showed up,'' recalled the Rev...