Brookline’s summer concert series takes over the alley


On a recent evening at Coolidge Corner, as rush-hour traffic flooded Harvard Street and the T carried passengers to and from the city, the opera’s unmistakable notes drifted from an alley in the one of the busiest areas of Brookline.

There, soprano Aurora Martin stood on a loading dock, surrounded by flowers and bathed in golden hour sunshine, serenading a crowd of about two dozen.

“Flowers and Opera,” as the event called it, is a new monthly pop-up held in the aisle of the SS Pierce Building and hosted by a number of Coolidge Corner businesses and organizations.

Several Coolidge Corner businesses have teamed up to turn a Brookline lane into a monthly "Flowers and Opera" night.  The June 24 performances featured pianist Katie Barr and soprano Aurora Martin.

The idea for “Flowers and Opera” hit Matthew Kerstein as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Brookline.

Kerstein, whose family owns Simons Shoes, wanted to spark some joy during an otherwise difficult time and see if he could help local musicians and businesses in the process.

Appearing before the select committee for approval last week, Michael Kerstein, Matthew’s father, said: “It was last year, when things were dark, and [Matthew] looked up and said, ‘You know, what the world needs are little flowers and opera.’ And it was very difficult to say no to that.

To get the ball rolling, Matthew Kerstein reached out to Kelley Hollis, a former Simons employee who performs and sits on the board of directors of Opera on Tap Boston.

Why the opera? “I think it’s more rare and unique to walk down the street and hear opera coming from an alleyway than other types of music,” Kerstein said. Opera could also be friendlier than a spontaneous hard rock concert, he added.

“I think people run into it and think it’s so lovely, and it’s really nice to see and it lights up the mood right away and people are really reacting to it,” he said.

The other participating companies and organizations – Brookline Bank, Trader Joe’s, the Chobee Hoy Group, the Brookline Commission for the Arts, Paris Creperie, and Sanctuary Medicinals – help pay the artists and provide the flowers and decorations. “Flowers and Opera” is also collecting donations for the Brookline Food Pantry, a suggestion from Simons Shoes employee Sophie Arnstein.

SS Pierce Alley is blocked off from 5 to 7 p.m. for the occasion and filled with coffee tables and vases of flowers. Free to the public, the summer musical series is scheduled every last Thursday of the month until October.

The crowd in Brookline's SS Pierce Aisle was mesmerized on June 24 as soprano Aurora Martin sang an opera, ending her performance with a rendition of

There have already been a few concerts and star singers have sometimes added popular standards. One of them ended his set with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and aroused the enthusiasm of the audience, according to Kerstein.

So far, he said, “Flowers and Opera” is all he wanted.

“I always felt this alley was a bit underused, and Coolidge Corner is really coming to a new place now,” Kerstein said, adding, “I think it’s a really cool place that could just use a place for people to sit, hang out, have events. Things like this make it more appealing, like Harvard Square or the North End. “

Kerstein hopes the musical series will open the door to other events in the neighborhood and make Coolidge Corner a destination for more than just shopping or eating.

Most importantly, he said: “I hope this will make people smile, and in general bring the community together a bit and make everyone feel like things are opening up after the long year with Corona. “

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