What began in the summer of 2002 as an event to build community after the 9/11 tragedy has blossomed into one of the area’s most highly-anticipated outdoor music events of the year. Concert Happenings in Ridgefield’s Parks (CHIRP), opened its 17th season of free outdoor music performances at Ballard Park on May 28 with British rocker James Maddock. The nearly 30 concerts feature styles that include Texas swing, “new grass” bluegrass, zydeco, Celtic, Klezmer, blues, rock, contemporary folk, and much more.
CHIRP is the brainchild of Barbara Manners, a music fan with eclectic tastes and a keen eye for booking live performers.
“After 9/11, I felt that so many of us were confused, scared and feeling alone,” explained Manners, who also serves as a selectwoman in Ridgefield. “I wanted to help build a community that could promote healing, provide comfort, relieve stress and also be just plain fun. Music gives life to everything. There is no culture in the world that doesn’t have its own music. Music still brings me comfort, healing and fun. It always did.”
Over the years, Manners has watched CHIRP grow not only in the size of the crowds, but also in the range of sounds that fill Ballard Park every summer.
“In our first couple of years, the series was more heavily weighted to folk music and to individual singer-songwriters,” she said. “As the popularity grew, as well as donations, we were able to book a greater variety of bands.”
CHIRP’s draw has a lot to do with community appeal and the band’s music needs to fit into that vibe. “The vast majority of the people who come to the concert now are there to hear enjoyable music, but also to picnic, to perhaps visit with friends and neighbors, to be outside and let their kids play with others in the park. Their chatter can overwhelm someone not so very forceful,” Manners said.