Waukegan midday concerts emphasize the mellow

Those who come to hear noon concerts on Fridays at the Waukegan Public Library courtyard won't hear boisterous electronic music typically heard at local outdoor concerts. Instead, they'll be treated to a relaxing afternoon of mostly acoustic folk and blues music, including a new group this year — an orchestra that plays swing.

"We definitely don't do rock and roll," said Amanda Civitello, a library employee who arranges the concerts with the Friends of the Library

"We opened the series with a Celtic folk singer this year. Last week, we had steel pan drums. We had them last year and it was hugely popular with our younger people. We've also got jazz and bluegrass and blues."

Patrons can bring a lunch or purchase burgers, brats and hot dogs grilled on the premises by Dockside Dogs. Friends of the Library will sell desserts and cold drinks. "It's nice," Civitello said. "We have picnic tables set up. We have some umbrellas. People don't need to bring their own chairs."

Civitello works with the Friends of the Library to secure the performers. The Friends raise money through cookie and book sales in fall and winter to pay for the series, she said.

"We try to keep in mind bringing in fun artists for the community as well as civic artists the Friends ask for."

For example, the Friends group suggested swing music. So Civitello turned to Mike Knauf, who leads the band during the library's annual Oktober Fest.

"He really knows the music scene and just happened to be the bandleader of a swing orchestra called The Dixieland Jazz Cats," Civitello said. "They'll close our season on Aug. 26."

"The challenge was to find a string orchestra that could do those big-band songs but fit in our courtyard. We're very excited to have them. That music is so different from his German Oktober Fest music."

Civitello works to feature local artists such as the Maxwell Street Blues Band, which hails from Waukegan. "People love them. They are great. They really know how to energize the audience. People recognize the music that they're playing," she said.

Patrons also will get the chance to win free lawn tickets to Ravinia Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, she said.

Here's the list of remaining summer concerts:

July 1: Donna Herula & Tony Nardiello; blues

July 8: Beki Hemingway; acoustic

July 15: Back Porch Moon; folk

July 22: West End Jazz Band

July 29: Hungrytown; folk

Aug. 5: Piper Road Spring Band; bluegrass

Aug. 12: Maxwell Street Blues Band

Aug. 19: Kraig Kenning; acoustic

Aug. 26: The Dixieland Jazz Cats; swing

Sheryl DeVore is a freelance writer.

Waukegan Library Courtyard Concerts

When: Noon every Friday through Aug. 26

Where: Waukegan Public Library Courtyard, 128 N. County St., Waukegan. Rain location: Ray Bradbury Room

Tickets: Free

Information: 847-623-2041; www.waukeganpl.org/concerts/

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