Silence is Golden – and Melodic – in BPL’s Courtyard Concerts

By Seth Daniel

As the sun shone brightly last Friday afternoon on the shrubbery of the Copley Library’s celebrated Courtyard, string music from the Boston Philharmonic permeated the air as shadows danced off of the columns and statuary.

It was like a scene right out the Victorian television series ‘Downton Abbey,’ except there were also more than 200 people in shorts or office attire chowing down silently on their lunches.

But that scene is exactly why the Back Bay Copley Library’s Concerts in the Courtyard every Friday at 12:30 p.m. have been elevated to “can’t miss” status for neighbors, tourists and workers in the area.

Last Friday, a trio from the Philharmonic played to about 200 people gathered in the Courtyard.

It was – believe it or not – nearly a magical experience for folks looking for some respite from the crunch of urban life or the stresses of a tense workday.

Rebecca Campbell directs the program for the library and said it has become one of their most popular programs.

“It’s definitely grown in the last five years,” she said. “Our average attendance last year was 198. It’s a real combination of people. We have tourists and regulars here every week. We have people who work in the area and come here to eat their lunch, and we have people who are in the library and happen upon it by accident as well…I try to have different kinds of music each week…If one week we have classical, the next week I figure we probably need to get a jazz combo.”

So far it’s working.

Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander attended Friday’s concert and was completely taken by the setting and the audience.

“This is such a great scene,” he said. “I can’t get over it. There is heaven for me. You have all these people sitting and enjoying it and being so peaceful at lunch time. It’s young people, older people, tired and stressed people getting solace from their offices and enjoying great music and sunshine. Magnificent. That’s what it is.”

Naturally, as word spread around the neighborhood of the free concerts, a nice day like last Friday can bring numerous people from the area.

Susan Kennedy and Daphne Bishop were two workers who were there Friday to take in the Philharmonic.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Kennedy. “I brought my lunch, and we’re going to listen to some of the music before going back to work. It’s nice to be outdoors and enjoy something like this in the middle of the work day.”

Added Bishop, “I think it’s wonderful that these concerts are offered for free.”

Kristina Sullivan and her family came in from Jamaica Plain to eat peanut butter sandwiches and listen to the concert.

“It’s great for the kids to be exposed to this kind of music,” she said. “I love how everyone just sits here silently as the music plays, and everything is just so still. It’s a beautiful place, and everyone has just stopped right in the middle of the city and are quietly eating lunch. There’s peacefulness in that.”

This month’s upcoming schedule includes:

  • Night Tree, Friday, Aug. 18, 12:30 p.m.
  • Boston Lyric Opera, Friday, Aug. 25, 12:30 p.m.

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