Brown Bag series gives workers a musical lunch break

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    By Sarah Chamberlin

    SALT LAKE CITY – Those eight-to-five workdays can get old for employees in downtown Salt Lake. While the summer sun beckons people outside, office walls trap some in a world of appointments, deadlines and customer service. Fortunately, there is a way out.

    The Salt Lake City arts council kicked off its Brown Bag Concert Series Monday, June 9, continuing a 26-year tradition of free outdoor summer concerts. The series consists of about 50 performances put on by local artists each weekday between noon and 1:15 p.m.

    “We enjoy entertaining people in the middle of their workday ”cause they really need it,” said Kate MacLeod, a songwriter who has performed in the series for several years. “It”s great for the workers. They can walk from their office and get outside.”

    The purpose of the Brown Bag Series is revealed in its name. It allows people to bring a sack lunch and enjoy free music.

    “It”s one of our favorite performances,” MacLeod said. “It”s nice to play outside for people that are on their break. They particularly like it.”

    All performers in the series had to submit an application. McLeod was one of 45 accepted by the committee and will perform twice this summer – once with her Celtic group Shanahy and once with fellow songwriter Anke Summerhill.

    “It”s always an honor to be chosen to perform for this series,” MacLeod said. “It”s a very well organized arts council. They do a lot of great things around the city and they deserve their funding.”

    Brown Bag concerts offer a wide variety of music, including classical, folk, jazz and samba. Some groups featured this summer will be Harry Lee and the Back Alley Blues Band, Mambo Jumbo, Chuck Pyle, Due South and Cottonwood. The Grammy-winning group Tingstad and Rumbel will also perform.

    “For people who may not have much time to spend searching out music, this is an opportunity for them,” MacLeod said. “Everyday they can have exposure to a different kind of music.”

    The concerts usually attract a crowd of 50 to 200 people. If the music were not enough to bring people out, local restaurants donate free lunches that are given away at the end of each concert.

    “I actually try to make it down to the Brown Bag concerts myself when I have a chance,” MacLeod said. “It”s free to the public. Very rarely do you get to hear a lot of different performances for free.”

    The Brown Bag Concert Series started as a street theater project 26 years ago.

    “It developed to bring people downtown and make the city a more attractive place during the day,” said Casey Jarman, programs director for the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

    Ninety percent of performers in the series are local, but this year, six groups will come from out of state.

    “We just select the best artists,” Jarman said. They”re not necessarily looking for a particular audience, but have the highest artistic quality. It”s outstanding because they”re all so good.”

    The concerts, which run Monday through Friday and extend into August, will take place at a different venue each week. This first week of music will be at Eagle Gate Plaza at South Temple and State Street.

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