ELLSWORTH — At a city concert hall, the dramatic final notes of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” would stir applause.
Honking car horns, though, would be reserved for the awful traffic on the drive home.
But as the Ellsworth Concert Band draws out those final notes atop the grassy knoll in front of Ellsworth City Hall, the occupants of parked cars express their appreciation by honking like vehicles stuck in a New York traffic jam.
Every Wednesday, scores of volunteer musicians set up above the City Hall parking lot and give a free concert. Concert-goers either plant chairs on the hillside or find a parking space and enjoy the show from their cars like a classic drive-in movie.
Led by conductor Ed Michaud, the band will play two more free shows Wednesdays, Aug. 8 and 15, at 8 p.m. Anyone may participate. All that’s required are an instrument and a willing attitude. An hour rehearsal is held before each show at 6:30 p.m.
On average, the band regularly has about 30 volunteer musicians, from horns to brass to clarinets to a snare drum. Some musicians have been with the band for many years, including local flutists Mary Jones and Mary Turner, who have played with the group almost 40 years combined.
Then there’s Ellsworth native Katie Lyons, who started with the band her sophomore year at Ellsworth High School. Now she’s in her third year studying music education at the University of Maine. She can play a variety of instruments — including piano, brass, percussion and violin — but primarily plays the saxophone.
“(The show is) so much fun,” she said. “It’s easy-going and everyone here just really loves music. That’s why they’re here.”
Throughout the show, the audience files in and out, some on foot, some in cars.
Lounging on the grass at the July 18 concert, New York City jazz guitarist Ryan Blotnick was drawn to City Hall by the live music.
Born in Kennebunkport, he’s living in Blue Hill this summer, teaching guitar and playing jazz shows around the Downeast area.
“I just heard the music and came up here,” he said. “It’s really nice to have public music like this.”
At the same concert, Massachusetts teen Charlotte Goddu tried her hand at the snare drum. She’s been playing drum kit for three years after realizing she hated the violin (“Yeah, my parents weren’t thrilled,” she said with a smirk).
The Goddu family has been coming to Surry from Boston every summer since before Charlotte was born. After following a friend to the band’s first concert, she volunteered her skills as a drummer.
And after her first show with the band she showed all of her braces with a big smile while the cars honked and honked.