2024-05-21 7:40 PM

Guest Commentary: ‘Summer Concerts in the Park’ Returns for 29th Year

For 29 years, the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) has sponsored the annual Summer Concerts in Cherry Hill Park. Bands use the 19th century barn for a stage and the audience spreads out in the park. The first concert of 2021 premiers Thursday at 7 p.m., and concerts continue each Thursday through July 29. Covid restrictions for outdoor events are no longer in place so reservations are not required. Performances are free and open to all ages.

While VPIS hosted outdoor concerts early on, the modern edition of concerts in Cherry Hill Park was established in 1993 as an idea championed by former prominent Falls Church citizen and VPIS board member Dave Eckert. He wrote that the goals of the concerts were to “encourage the use of Cherry Hill Park for live cultural presentations, to financially support and stimulate local musicianship, and to improve the cultural climate of Falls Church.”

Concerts are held outdoors in the park unless there is rain, in which case they are moved inside the Falls Church Community Center. Mr. Eckert once recollected that the one of first concert series had to be moved indoors each week due to rain and Eckert questioned their viability. But the weather generally cooperated in later years and a Falls Church tradition was established. When Dave and his wife Annette Mills left Falls Church in 2006, I volunteered to continue production of the series.

To date there have been 172 concerts in the series. Falls Church Concert Band has performed 25 times while Andrew Acosta has appeared for 23 performances.

Concerts are staffed by Scarlett Williams from Recreation and Parks Department and VPIS members Melissa Teates, Alison Miller, Mike Volpe, Keith Thurston, Jon Hundley and Bonnie Murphy. Devin Divecha runs the sound board.
The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the 2020 schedule, but VPIS still hosted a concert, virtually, with Moonshine Society performing in a local basement. You can still view that concert on the VPIS website (vpis.org).

The Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society was established in 1885. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, village improvement societies were established in the northeast and midwest seeking to beautify, preserve and upgrade their towns and cities. Falls Church VPIS’s mission is to preserve our environment, protect our historic architecture and landmarks, encourage appropriate development of the city, and promote cultural activities. Amongst these efforts are this concert series, spring and fall street tree purchases and plantings, biennial recognition of exceptional architectural improvements, support for arts organizations in the city, and patriotic readings of the Declaration of Independence and founding documents on July 4 in City Hall.

Through the years, VPIS’ concerts have featured a variety of bands. One of the founding principles of the concerts is that bands should have a local connection. Live music is a feature in Falls Church with other events and venues including the annual Memorial Day Parade, Fall Festival and Taste of Falls Church, and the Tinner Hill Music Festival (formerly Tinner Hill Blues Festival), also established in part by Mr. Eckert, which has grown into a regional event sponsored by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and produced by Tori McKinney.

Attendance at the summer concerts can run from 100 to 400 people depending on the band and the weather. As in previous years, the Victorian Society is expected to sell ice cream, and VPIS will have cold water, soda, and juice boxes on-hand for purchase.

This year’s concerts feature some great local musicians. The Falls Church Concert band kicks things off on June 17. They are followed by rock band Nomad (a frequent guest at Falls Church Distillers). Then on July 1, recent WAMMIE award winner alternative rock band Flowerbomb performs featuring local singer Rachel Kline. This is followed by an outdoor performance by Moonshine Society which was recently recognized as the top band in Northern Virginia magazine. Next, Falls Church native and favorite Andrew Acosta returns with American roots music. Then, funk saxophonist Lil’ Maceo makes his Cherry Hill debut. The concerts wrap up on July 29 with rock and blues band Big Tow, who frequently perform at Clare and Don’s.

Visit vpis.org for more information about the Village Preservation and Improvement Society and to view this summer’s concert schedule:

• June 17 — Falls Church Concert Band

• June 24 — Nomad (classic rock)

• July 1 — Flowerbomb (alternative rock)

• July 8 — Moonshine Society (blues)

• July 15 — Andrew Acosta (roots)

• July 22 — Lil’ Maceo (funk)

• July 29 — Big Tow (rock and blues)

Gordon Theisz produces the summer concert series for VPIS and is a Falls Church citizen and local family doctor.


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