Golden Gate Park Band

Five thousand free concerts must certainly be a world record, and giving five thousand free concerts is precisely what our Golden Gate Park Band has accomplished during the past 130 years. The band is vintage San Francisco; it’s a city treasure, and it’s deservedly world famous.

01) GGP Band-6:12:11  (Z-13-595)03) Speeckles Temple-6:24:12 (Z-17-869)

Just as they’ve done since 1882, the band gives a free concert in Golden Gate Park on most Sunday afternoons from mid April to early October. They also have special concerts on the Fourth of July and Labor Day. The concerts start promptly at 1pm and, for two hours, the band plays great symphony and big band music. The concerts are organized and led by Conductor Michael Wirgler, who’s a musician, a retired music teacher, and a native San Franciscan. The 30 band members are all professional musicians. Some of the concerts also include singing and dance performances by other groups.

The concerts are held in the Spreckles Temple of Music in the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse. Drop by anytime, take a program, settle down on one of the Music Concourse’s green benches, and enjoy the music. It’s free; it’s fun, and you can come and go as you please. You can even bring a picnic, if you wish.

In addition to the Sunday afternoon concerts, the band also hosts an annual two-day concert in early June. Community bands from around the state come to San Francisco and play non-stop music all Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The Band Festival is organized by the Friends of the Golden Gate Park Band — the 2013 festival is scheduled for June 8-9.

Golden Gate Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the world, and on calm sunny days, it’s truly a gorgeous place to be. If a free concert in a stunning park isn’t enough, then add crowd watching to the list of reasons to be here. The De Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, and California Academy of Sciences ring the Music Concourse, so the area is teeming with people. The surrounding scene is constantly changing as small children dance on the stage apron, wedding parties take photos on the temple steps, tour groups come and go, and passersby stumble upon the concert and linger for a while listening to the music.

The 44 O'Shaughnessy bus runs right through the park, with stops on either side of the Music Concourse, so there’s no need to drive or deal with parking.

 

Here’s the schedule for the remaining 2012 concerts:

      Date                    Day           Time         Event

      July 15              Sunday       1-3p        Viva la France (French music)

      July 22               Sunday       1-3p        Water music—inspired by rivers, lakes, and streams

      July 29               Sunday       1-3p        Program of great concert band music

      August 5            Sunday       1-3p        Marches of the world

      August 12          Sunday       1-3p        Featuring: the music of Edvard Grieg

      August 19          Sunday       1-3p        St. Steven’s Day (Hungarian music, singing, and dancing)

      August 26          Sunday       1-3p        Ukrainian-American Day (music, singing, and dancing)

      September 2      Sunday       1-3p        Great concert band music with bass/baritone John Minagro

      September 3      Monday      1-3p        Celebrating the American worker in music

      September 10                                      No Concert

      September 16    Sunday       1-3p        An Irish-American celebration

      September 23    Sunday       1-3p        Spanish music celebration with El Groupo de España

      September 30    Sunday       1-3p        Jazz at the park

      October 7          Sunday       1-3p        Grand finale concert (all request)

 

Disclosure: I’m the secretary for the Friends of the Golden Gate Park Band, a small group of volunteers who help support the band.

 

Credit where credit is due:

Website: Golden Gate Park Band

Website: Friends of the Golden Gate Park Band

Golden Gate Park Band strikes up 130th season - By Carolyne Zinko, SF Chronicle, April 23, 2012

Five Thousand Concerts in the Park - by David W. Bandy, Blurb 2010

 

© Virginia E. Vail 2012