While this summer has offered a bigger, more-diverse palette of performers than ever before, the headliners often have been drowned out by chatter from the low-slung chairs down in front and blankets on the hillside.

Granted, most of the concerts are free and the atmosphere is casual -- with kids and dogs mixing it up in the crowd -- but still, it's the music, not the chitchat and one-sided cell phone discussions, that should take center stage.

Hosts like Mountain Town Music, the Park City Institute, Utah Symphony and Canyons have fielded an all-star array of virtuosos including Kenny Rogers, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Martina McBride as well as local favorites and a chorus of up-and-coming talent. It's a shame to spend the evening leaning away from the cocktail party on the right in order to hear the string section or to understand the lyrics being mimed onstage.

It is hard to believe that many in the crowds are the same fans who listened with rapt concentration to the Eccles Center performances last winter. For some reason, Parkites' indoor manners are much better than when they are sprawled on the grass under the stars.

Of course, that is part of the charm of outdoor music the ability to let kids and spirits run free. But there is also a lot to be said for courtesy to surrounding concert-goers and to the musicians. In the smaller venues like NewPark especially, the barking and kids wrangling and gossip easily overwhelm the singers, guitarists and piano players.


Advertisement

Here are a few possible remedies: put cell phones on silent, if you are partying with a group move to the rear, spread out a smaller blanket so you don't have to shout from corner to corner, try to tone down conversations during the quiet ballads and wait until intermission to call out sandwich and drink orders.

When the last chords are struck and the nights grow cold and long, we hope to recall the melodies of the musicians rather than the cacophony of the crowd. There is still a month of music left to enjoy, let's settle down and listen.