July 03--For 22 years, music has been keeping alive a corner of Maudslay State Park -- in more ways than one.
The concerts in the Maudslay Arts Center's summer series not only fill the space with crowds and sounds each weekend, they also raise money to maintain the outbuildings and landscaping.
"My idea has always been to bring the living arts, the performing arts," said Nick Costello Sr., who founded the Newburyport center in 1992 with Jim Gaines and former Mayor Edward Molin. "People don't really see that anymore. There's nothing like live music and watching the performers."
Costello organized and booked the acts for the first concert series and continued to do so for more than a decade before handing over the reins to son Nick Costello Jr., executive director of the arts center.
Costello Sr. still serves as president of the board of directors and remains very involved, along with wife Cynthia, who is vice president of the board and often greets guests at the concerts.
This year's series opens Saturday with a performance by Boston-based roots band The Mystix.
"My wife has every one of their CDs," Costello said. "They're very good."
Led by Jo Lily, former frontman for popular group Duke and the Drivers, The Mystix will preview songs from "Midnight in Mississippi," which will be released in September. Lily and guitarist Bobby Keyes, who both have roots in the Greater Newburyport area, will be joined at this weekend's show by Annie Raines on harmonica, Kevin Barry on lap steel and Dobro, Tom West on keyboards, Matt Leavenworth on fiddle, Dennis McDermott on drums/percussion, and Jesse Williams on bass guitar.
"They're a funny group, and they're good musicians besides," Costello said.
With the skies predicted to clear up on Saturday, the concert should take place on the outdoor stage, with seating available on the patio or lawn and plenty of room for dancing. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnic dinners, and desserts and beverages will be available to purchase during intermission.
"Some people go all out with tablecloths and candles," Costello said.
Those with lawn seats are asked to bring their own chairs or blankets, while tables and chairs are already set up on the patio, a spot that Costello particularly enjoys.
"Whether it's evening or afternoon, it's always shady," he said. "It's a very comfortable atmosphere."
If rain does occur on a concert date, the shows move indoors to the renovated cow barn, which Costello describes as "acoustically great."
After this weekend's concert, the series continues next weekend with a pair of shows. The Hillyer Festival Orchestra will bring big band music to its debut at Maudslay on Saturday, followed by returning favorite The '60s Invasion on Sunday.
Other popular acts coming back to the series this season include jazz singer Rebecca Parris, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, The Don Campbell Band, The Paul Broadnax Quintet, The Shaw Brothers, and Liz Frame and the Kickers.
Another newcomer is the Aeterna Trio, which will close out the series on Aug. 24 with original music, classical crossovers and beloved themes.
"We've got a great schedule this year," Costello said. "We're looking forward to a great season."
In addition to the Costellos, a full slate of volunteers helps put on the series each year. The center also gets support from Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"Thankfully, we have some wonderful volunteers year after year," Costello said.
If you go
What: Maudslay Arts Center Summer Concert Series
When: Saturdays, July 5, 12, 19 and 26 and Aug. 9, 16 and 23, at 7 p.m.; Sundays, July 13 and 20 and Aug. 10, 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. Gates open one hour before the concerts start.
Where: Maudslay State Park, Curzon Mill Road, Newburyport
How much: Saturday performances are $25 for patio seating and $20 for lawn seating. Sunday performances are $12 for all seating. Children under 12 are admitted free. To purchase, call 978-499-0050 or visit www.maudslayartscenter.org. Tickets are also available at the gate.
July 5: The Mystix and Friends
July 12: Hillyer Festival Orchestra
July 13: The '60s Invasion
July 19: Rebecca Parris
July 20: Shirim Klezmer Orchestra
July 26: Lance Bryant
Aug. 9: The Don Campbell Band
Aug. 10: The Shaw Brothers
Aug. 16: The Paul Broadnax Quintet
Aug. 17: Hal McIntyre Orchestra "Big Band Tribute to Frank Sinatra"
Aug. 23: Liz Frame and the Kickers
Aug. 24: Aeterna Trio
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