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‘It makes my heart happy’: Downtown Anchorage outdoor concert series kicks off under sunny skies

People listen to Anchorage musician Ava Earl as she performs on the front lawn of the Anchorage Museum downtown on Friday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Part of an effort to re-energize downtown Anchorage, the first concert in a summerlong series brought live music once again to the front lawn of the Anchorage Museum.

Friday’s performance kicked off Anchorage Summer Arts in the Park, a six-weekend outdoor concert series featuring Alaskan artists. ASAP is a collaborative effort between the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Independent Musicians Initiative.

“This is very healing for me, emotionally,” Lisa Balivet said as she sat next to her friend Lisa Pullen. “It makes my heart happy.”

The duo hadn’t spent much time with each other over the past year, with the exception of masked and socially distanced walks. Now vaccinated and soaking up the sun, they sat next to each other and listened to the music.

“Anchorage, we need this,” Pullen said.

Lisa Balivet, left, talks with Lisa Pullen as they listen to live music. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Azriel Sellers holds Kaila Pfister as she naps on the lawn while they listen to music. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Spenard Jazz Fest Director Yngvil Vatn Guttu wears a homemade pin gifted to her. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Friday’s concert was hosted by Spenard Jazz Fest as organizers geared up for a weekend of events and performances.

Between performers, festival director Yngvil Vatn Guttu chatted with the audience.

“We’re outside, the music is live,” she said. “It’s great to see grass again, isn’t it?”

People cheered and clapped as the next musicians took the small stage.

Molly Dieni, left, Audrey Latonio, center, and Lisa Hawkins, right, members of the contemporary a cappella trio Pipeline Vocal Project, perform on Friday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

For the Anchorage contemporary a cappella trio Pipeline Vocal Project, performing this weekend marked the celebration of the group’s second year of performing. Members Molly Dieni, Lisa Hawkins and Audrey Latonio energetically performed a handful of songs for a growing crowd.

Their first show, back in October 2019, came just months before the start of pandemic in Anchorage and put a halt to their live performances. They used the pandemic as an opportunity to expand their online presence and social media fan base, but going back to performing live is exciting and has been missed, they say.

Molly Dieni walks into the audience and holds the hand of Spenard Jazz Fest Director, Yngvil Vatn Guttu, while performing Friday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Blankets and wicker picnic baskets were spread around the lawn as floating bubbles made by children glistened in the sun.

The voice of Kat Moore, performing as The Forest That Never Sleeps, rang out and caught the attention of passing cars and pedestrians. “We were all in a lockdown, when did it end, tell me it ended,” she sang as the crowd laughed.

“It feels normal,” said Rebecca Pottebaum, programs manager for the Anchorage Museum, smiling wide as she sat on a nearby bench.

Summer performances will take place Fridays and Saturdays in June and July. The first concert will begin at 5:30 p.m. on the front lawn of the Anchorage Museum. At 7 p.m., a second concert will begin at Town Square Park near the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. To find out more about upcoming shows, visit asap.alaskapac.org.

Vincent Holman, 7, makes bubbles during the concert. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
People listen to Ava Earl perform. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
People listen to live music on the front lawn of the Anchorage Museum downtown on Friday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
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