Traffic jam: Musicians, community say goodbye to Memorial Bridge

Posted Aug. 02, 2011, at 9:52 a.m.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Music transformed the closed Memorial Bridge on Monday night into an area of high traffic once again.

Crowds from both sides of the bridge gathered at the Portsmouth entrance to enjoy a musical tribute in the wake of its recent closure to motor vehicles for safety reasons.

Although unable to hold the concert on the bridge itself because of the structural concerns, the group of local musicians found their spot at the entrance, the bridge as a backdrop.

The musicians played an eclectic set that included Herbie Hancock, taps, and “We All Live in a Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.

Russ Grazier, a saxophone player, said the impromptu concert was “a little bit of both” a celebration and a funeral for the bridge.

“It’s an opportunity for us to say goodbye before the construction crews move in,” Grazier said during a break between sets.

A range of instruments that included tambourines, a tuba, clarinet, trombone, bongo drums, flute and several strings attracted people walking by the area, and enthralled many children who were able to participate with batons and maracas that were provided.

Amelia Chandler, 3, clutched a tiny blue maraca and danced around to the music as her mother, Rachel Chandler, looked on.

Chandler, who lives in Exeter, N.H., but grew up in Kittery, Maine, said they’d heard about the concert just a few hours earlier and had to come down to participate in the tribute to the bridge.

“We come by and use the bridge all the time,” said Chandler, who still has family in Kittery. “We were very sad to hear about it closing.”

She said the concert was “awesome and spontaneous,” sentiments shared by many others who stopped by.

“I think it’s great,” said Eliot resident Pam Langley, whose husband was playing soprano saxophone in the group.

Langley said she not only came out to support her husband, but because of the bridge.

“It’s sad for the businesses,” she said of the closure.

Matt Ralph said the bridge closure is a “bummer.” He works in Portsmouth, N.H., but lives in Eliot, Maine, and will miss being able to use the bridge for easy transportation back and forth.

“It’s an inconvenience, but it’s better to be safe,” said his wife, Diane Ralph.

Matt Ralph added they wanted to come out to the concert to make a point of supporting people utilizing other routes to travel from Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, so businesses don’t suffer from the closure.

“We need to figure out how to get people coming this way,” said Kittery resident Drika Overton, who was also playing in the band. Overton said the musicians, who all know each other, felt they needed to do something to honor the bridge and bring attention to the closure and what it means for the area.

“It’s served our community well,” Overton said of the bridge.

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To see more of Foster’s Daily Democrat, visit fosters.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

 

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