During the pandemic, a small musical series sprouted at Soldiers Circle (part of the Olmsted Parks system). The series began as a safe way for people to distance themselves socially, while listening to some of the best bands the city has to offer. The initiative was taken by Thérèse “Tee” Forton-Barnes and her husband Tom Barnes, who live in the circle.
What started as a local effort, with bands performing on Barnes’ Porch, has started to come to life. As more and more people heard about live music (in a time when live music was all but abandoned) they started to grab their picnic blankets and baskets, their chairs, and with their friends and family, they sat down to enjoy the weekly performances, held on Wednesday evenings.
After the pandemic started to abate (this summer), Tee and Tom figured they would bring the concerts back, due to high demand from bands and music lovers. They filed a permit with the City, to have live music every two weeks.
“The Soldiers Circle music series premiered in 2020 to help unemployed musicians and the community have an evening of live music to help lift their spirits,” said Therese. “In 2021, we kept going because we were encouraged to do it again because of the community camaraderie it sparked. The series has turned into a beautiful gathering of dancing children, neighbors socializing, and musicians entertaining themselves with music ranging from jazz to reggae. It’s gratifying to see babies, and those in their 90s – including my 91 year old dad – appreciate the incredible talent on our porch every week. Some of the bands we’ve featured include Neville Francis, Jelly Jar, Anne Phillipone, Robert Parker, Pointless Brothers, and Organ Fairchild.
Along with Therese and Tom, musician George F. Olmsted helped run the music business. George agreed that it was a grassroots effort that led to the formation of the series, from humble beginnings.
“Around the beginning of June 2020, when we were in the grip of the pandemic and social unrest, I felt that the need for musical expression, especially live performances, was the tonic we all had. need, ”said George, who is a distant relative. by Frederick Law Olmsted, as it should be. “My band, Olmsted Dub System, put on an impromptu social distancing performance at my house. The neighbors came together safely and we all enjoyed the experience. A neighbor, Therese Forton Barnes, heard about it and contacted me to put on a similar performance on her porch in Soldiers Place. We both agreed that his special property, in the center of the circle, was an ideal “venue” for a live performance. Groups could be isolated from the crowds, and the park and trees provided a naturally “socially distant” space.
“Our ensuing discussion centered on our community, the power of music to unite us all, and the fact that many musicians in our community were also out of their regular and reliable jobs, in venues large and small in town. . In order to help everyone, the musicians and the community, we have decided to organize a weekly event on Wednesday evening. I agreed to contact the bands and book them to have the opportunity to perform in front of a real live audience (the streaming performances were difficult and embarrassing for many of us), and that the bands could earn some income much needed from grateful attendees via tips, Venmo, etc. We were also very concerned about the spread of the covid-19 virus, so action was taken every week to ensure that we were experiencing a safe and socially remote event. Signs were posted, masks were available, hand sanitizing stations, etc. were present every week.
“And that’s how we started, with a selection of a variety of local talent, and the concerts were an incredible success for everyone involved. Many people, musicians and members of the community, have noticed how these weekly concerts “saved” them. Participants from the Rochester and Syracuse areas also came every week because their communities had nothing like it. That was all the validation everyone needed. All of the musicians who performed were amazed at the participation and love of the community. We had 14 consecutive concerts in 2020. We continue with bi-weekly concerts in 2021.
“I am proud and humble towards a member of a community who values each other, values creative expression, values our wonderful Olmsted parks and comes together to support each other. I have witnessed this countless times in 716 and think it is one of the best communities to live in, anywhere.
Needless to say, this second season of live music on Soldiers Circle has now become a “way of life” for all involved. The hope is to continue the series in the years to come. That said, there is one last gig to wait for on August 25th. It’s the grand finale of 2021, with the group Flashback. All proceeds raised that evening (from donations) will go to the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Formed in 2015, Flashback is a band from Buffalo, NY that specializes in Rock & Roll tunes from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. Let Flashback take you back to the music of The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who, Steppenwolf, CCR, Bob Seger, Warren Zevon, Jethro Tull, Tom Petty, REM, The Tragically Hip, 54-40, Radiohead, Cracker , And much more. The group is led by Buffalo lawyer and judge Joe O’Donnell. Joe has performed in groups at college and law school and returned to music over ten years ago at the behest of Eugene Fahey. Fahey, another musician, discovered that O’Donnell was a singer and rhythm guitarist and sought him out to play in his band. O’Donnell has since returned, and his love of the show has only grown stronger.