Performer Cynthia Lyon, whose band Eight to the Bar will perform on the Town Green tonight, remembers the last time she played in the Music Under the Stars concert series 19 years ago. “It was so large,” she said of the crowd. “It seemed so good.” When pressed as to its exact size, she said, “Maybe in the hundreds. I honestly don’t remember.”
Both the Music Under the Stars concerts and Eight to the Bar, the band Lyon founded in 1975, have advanced considerably over the years. Eight to the Bar has traveled through Europe many times. Last summer, the U.S. Embassy invited it to perform in the Republic of Georgia, where it initiated a Swing Contest.
“They loved our band so much they actually filmed us. We were huge stars because we were Americans,” Lyons, whose band will perform Motown and Swing tonight, said.
Also in the band—which, numbering six and not eight, takes its title from a 1940’s hit song—is her husband Collin Tilton. He played sax and flute with the singer-songwriter Van Morrison and later performed with the late Etta James.
The Music Under the Stars series has also done extremely well. Eileen Pettit, who has served with the Department of Recreation for 28 years and now directs it, said the audience at the concerts has grown steadily over the past few years. She also said she has seen the number of concerts in the series grow from five to 10.
Although the audience for each eight of the concerts in the series to date this summer has numbered in the thousands, the July performance of Mike DelGuidice and BIG SHOT, which features members from the performer Billy Joel’s band, brought roughly 7,000 persons to the Green.
“We’re hearing from people around the state that the series is one of the best in the state,” said Pettit. “We get great feedback.”
In addition to the crowd that followed a group such as BIG SHOT from Long Island, New Jersey and New York, Pettit finds audience members who have traveled within Connecticut from destinations as far as Greenwich, Danbury and Waterbury.
In a summer of high heat and sudden thunderstorms, she acknowledged that, “Tuesdays are a little special for me. I spend the day looking at the radar.”
And although most persons arrive for the 7 p.m. concert between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Pettit said she has gone to the Green at mid-afternoon and found members of that evening’s audience already there.
Planning the series has become what Pettit terms a year-round process. She said she receives press kits and CD’s from bands at her office, and she also tries to stop by a performance if a band is playing locally.
In October, she will sit down with to first review the status of next year’s series. By January 1, she will know her line-up for the coming summer. In January, she said, North Haven residents begin to call her office, wanting to know the date of the first concert so they can arrive with their family and friends.
Although the concerts are free, the town requests that each member of the audience bring a non-perishable item as its admission fee.
“Our green is pretty large,” said Pettit of the crowd the town expects for tonight’s concert. “It’s one of the nicest settings in the state. On a beautiful night on the Green,” she said, her mind on the music, "there’s nothing better.”
On August 28, the final performance in this year’s Music Under the Stars will feature the band PrimeTime founded by North Haven resident Ralph Valente.