Hatch Shell Light Show: Free, Nightly Fun for Boston Families

Colors, shapes, and sounds illuminate the Hatch Shell through February 21st.
Colors, shapes, and sounds illuminate the Hatch Shell through February 21st.

This winter, especially, families are looking—desperately—for outings that are safe and fun. Boston's Esplanade Association has answered the call with an event that's those both things, as well as inspring and—wait for it—free. Conceived to "cut through the darkness of the winter months," Hatched: Breaking Through the Silence is a free nightly light and music show at the Hatch Shell outdoor ampitheater that runs from January 22nd to February 21st, 2021. Read on for the scoop on what this creative, first-time-ever Hatch Shell light show is all about and how and when to go experience it with your family. We're adding it to our list of best things to do with Boston kids this winter.

What is Hatched at the Hatch Shell?

Shows begin at 5pm and run every 15 minutes through 9pm.

Hatched was—well—hatched as an idea to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Esplanade Association’s partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (the organization that runs most of the parks in and around the city). In more typical years, the Hatch Shell, which strikes an iconic shape along the Charles River in the Back Bay, is a live concert venue, famously hosting the Boston Pops for its annual 4th of July Concert. This year, the Esplanade Association has recruited some of the region's best light and sound artists to produce a free, public show that will run every 15 minutes between 5pm and 9pm.

At this Hatch Shell concert, the stage is populated with colorful lights and sounds, not musicians. A kaleidoscope-like rotation of projection-mapped visuals, created by the renowned performative art team MF Dynamics, celebrate the different types of music that has emanated from the venue over the years. Viewers will see geometric shapes, human hands magically tapping, scratching, and creating beats, and colorful animations accentuating the Shell’s Art Deco form. The visuals are coordinated with music that you play on your phone while you watch the lights (there is a  QR code to scan at the site, or find it here.)

With most museums closed this winter due to the pandemic, this nightly Hatch Shell show fills an artistic and cultural void that many families are feeling. Featuring a team of predominantly female-identifying artists and directors who worked behind the scenes for month to create the automated performance, Hatched is also, according to organizers, "an opportunity for underrepresented communities to 'break through- and share their skills, vision, and voice."

How To See Hatched at the Hatch Shell

Starting at the stroke of 5pm Friday January 22nd, Hatched will run every 15 minutes until 9pm. There are no tickets or reservations to worry about; attendees are simply asked to come masked and practice social distancing, which shouldn't be hard to do on the expansive lawn in front of the Hatch Shell.

Because there are no parking lots or spaces nearby that would allow people to watch from their cars, the Esplanade Association asks attendees to come to the concert on foot. There are multiple footbridges that can be used as access points, but the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge gets you closest to the Hatch Shell.

Best of all? With custom-built weather housing for the projectors, Hatched will run every night through February 21st–regardless of cold and snow. So no matter what dreariness the New England weather (or the circumstances of a pandemic) bring, the Hatch Shell can be, at least for the darkest days of winter, a beacon of color, light, and fun. Don't miss it!

All photos courtesy of MF Dynamics

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