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A group photo of The Blue Drifters.

The Blue Drifters will play a varied selection of bluegrass as part of the "Summer at Northrop" free concert series when it performs on Wednesday, June 29, at noon on the Northrop plaza.

Free concerts on the Twin Cities campus

By Pauline Oo

Published on June 10, 2005

Imagine the sunshine on your feet, the aroma from the grill, and your head bobbing to some reggae tunes... or bluegrass, or Irish jigs, or perhaps, even some Broadway hits. Every summer, since 1954, hordes of people have converged on Northrop plaza on the Twin Cities campus to catch a free concert. This summer will be no different. The 2005 "Summer at Northrop" series, with its eclectic array of 25 concerts, begins Monday, June 13.

Up and coming West African reggae artist, Rass Kwame aka Kwame Wood will launch the series at noon with his brand of music described as "roots, reggae, and Ghana highlife." The singer, who has been singing and playing drums since he was 12 year old, has toured with internationally known musicians and heated up dance floors in New York and Washington, D.C. In 2002, the Star Tribune reported that Kwame and his band were "smokin' tight and [could] lay down blistering rhythms that take you from the heart of Babylon to the hot sands of a Caribbean seaside."

Noontime concerts in St. Paul

The concerts are held on Thursday at the Terrace Cafi, St. Paul Student Center.

June 16--JoAnna James, solo guitar and vocals

June 23--Dan Israel, solo guitar and vocals

June 30--Easily Amused, guitar duo and vocals

July 14--Gene Lafond and Brian Green, guitar duo and vocals

July 21--Michael Loonan, solo keyboard and vocals

July 28--Shevy Smith, solo guitar and vocals

Aug. 4--Chris Herriges, solo guitar and vocals

So, that said, how can you miss Kwame? On top of getting free, live music on Monday, you'll get drinks and dessert on the house. The organizers are dishing up cake and lemonade for concert-goers. (The "Summer at Northrop" series is presented by the U's Summer Session program and Department of Concerts and Lectures, and it's funded by student services fees collected during the May and summer academic sessions.)

Historical notes

Northrop Memorial Auditorium has served as a cultural center for artistic performances in the Upper Midwest for more than 70 years. The building was built in 1929 and named after the University's second president, Cyrus Northrop. In 1954, the Minnesota Orchestra first performed a free concert for U students, faculty, and staff on Northrop plaza. The event, which was offered in appreciation for its temporary digs at Northrop Auditorium, launched the tradition of free outdoor performances by local and international artists on the Twin Cities campus.

Other groups playing this season, which runs through August 4, include Paris 1928, Twin Cities Community Gospel choir, Norse Fiddle, Ellington Echoes Octet, New Riverside Ramblers, and Cafi Accordion Orchestra. There will also be a free evening concert on Wednesday, July 22, on Northrop plaza by Daby Toure. The Mauritanian guitarist and singer who sings of freedom, family, and optimism in bleak times is known will blend his native music with sounds from Senegal, Mali, Paris, and New York.

"Summer at Northrop" concerts are noon to 1 p.m., and if it rains, they'll be moved inside to Northrop Auditorium. For a complete list bands and their types of music, see www.umn.edu/umato/summer.html.

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