Meals and melodies on the mall

Northrop summer concert series hits prime time this weekend

Keri Carlson

In the summertime, the University is a much different place.

Yes, there are still some students and professors wandering about, but it’s no longer the swarming sea of people to be found during the school year. With the summer comes a sense of calm, the feel of a small college.

For those who stick around, the University campus is one of the best places in the Twin Cities for a leisurely stroll, as long as you avoid the construction.

Instead of rushing off to class, there’s time to enjoy the beauty of the campus. There are plenty of great people-watching benches, with coffee shops and restaurants close by.

But one of the main reasons the East Bank is a magical place in the summer is the noon Northrop outdoor concerts.

From jazz to cajun to medieval roots, the annual Northrop series enchants passers-by and lunch-breakers with live music. It turns the campus into a romantic foreign film.

Northrop representative Linda Brandt said the director of the summer concerts, Dale Schatzlein, strives for a variety of performers.

“There’s an emphasis on this project to expose people on this campus to different music they might not hear,” Brandt said.

One of this year’s highlights is the Cafe Accordion Orchestra, a group playing whimsical French waltzes, gypsy jazz, swing and tango. On the day the Cafe Accordion Orchestra is scheduled, the Farmer’s Market will also set up shop on the plaza.

Similar to previous years, the summer series peaks with an evening concert featuring an international artist – the “granddaddy” event, as Brandt termed it.

This year, Daby Toure brings his mix of African roots rhythms mixed with Western pop. Toure is a multi-instrumentalist and his compositions are filled with warm layers. This will be Toure’s only Midwest stop on his U.S. tour.

The series has been a tradition at the University since 1954; Brandt said the crowds have been considerably larger this year than in recent summers. While most of the crowd is made up of faculty members, staff members and people from park recreation programs, Brandt said he believes more students are coming.

Even on the rainy first day of this year’s series, a sizeable crowd still turned out and sat underneath tents.

“They were not to be denied,” Brandt said.