June 5, 2008

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Let them entertain you
Buskers on the Bricks returns to Manchester’s lunchtime
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

Already this week, there has been blues music, children’s songs and a cabaret performance by various entertainers for the annual Buskers on the Bricks series in downtown Manchester.

JT Bennett inaugurated the series Monday, though he was about a half-hour late, as he misplaced his car keys when he was to leave his house for the performance. While the wind was whipping and the sun played hide-and-seek, about 30 people turned out for the performance. Alone with a guitar and his voice, the front man for Sunny Weather Daze sang and played for an hour on the bricks in front of Manchester City Hall.

“Busker” means street performer. Many of these acts, though, are only occasional street performers. It’s an annual series sponsored by Intown Manchester, the nonprofit organization contracted by the city to promote the central business district. Starting in June and running to the end of August, there will be 55 performances on weekdays.

The space is large enough for more than just musical performances. On Friday, June 27, and Monday, June 30, the New England Tap Ensemble will perform on the bricks. There will also be a cabaret act, Cabaret De Boheme, on Wednesdays, June 4, July 2 and July 23. The Bedford Youth Performing Company will stage three shows on the bricks, July 24, July 31 and August 7 — all Thursdays.

Of course there will be musicians, like Melissa Blasek, who has performed for the busker series for the past five years with a mixture of jazz, soul and contemporary. Bennett has played there before as well.

This year, Intown worked to bring in new performers in addition to the regular busking members, like Fish Tunes, two brothers who fish, write, record and perform music, who play on the bricks on Fridays, June 13 and July 25.

“It’s something that many haven’t heard before,” said Samantha Appleton, communications director for Intown. “They have a cult following.”

Intown, a nonprofit organization funded by businesses in Manchester’s Central Business District, promotes downtown programming with the financial help of the city. This year, their money from the city’s community improvement program was cut $6,000 to $20,000 to fund the Buskers on the Bricks as well as the concerts in Veteran’s Park called “Thursday Night Live.”

Even though they had less money to use, they were able to bring in four more performing busker acts in previous years, but there is one less concert for the Thursday Night Live series. While the buskers are called buskers because they pass around a hat to the crowd for tips, Intown does pay a nominal fee to them. The ones who perform more than once are only being paid once, Appleton said.


Busker JT Bennett. Brian Early photo.

Buskers on the Bricks
When: Most weekdays in front of City Hall, 1 City Hall Plaza, Manchester, in the noon hour.
Who’s playing when? Check out Intown’s Web site, intownmanchester.com, or call 645-6285..