During the summer the Philadelphia Orchestra performs free concerts in parks around the city. It’s the “Free Neighborhood Concerts” series. Tonight was the one in Clark Park, where the farmers market I usually go to is on Saturday mornings. A few of my colleagues live in very close to the park, and they said they’d save a bit of space for me when they staked their claim on a patch of grass. They all have toddlers and infants or are (very) pregnant (KS was hoping Bolero would bring on labor… but no luck), and I brought my own four legged furry child, Aussie.
I love the symphony. I always have. In college I was fortunate enough to be friends with some of the people that played in the city orchestra, so I always had free tickets to the performances. In graduate school they had deep discounted tickets for students. I went every chance I got. When I got my first job and moved to a big city, friend JT and I decided to split the cost of a season subscription for two seats to six concerts. We always made an evening of it, going out to a restaurant and then to the concert, often discussing the performance afterwards over drinks or dessert somewhere. She and I had a blast. So when my friend KS told me about the concert in the park, I knew I was going to go no matter what. It had been far far too long since my last orchestra concert.
I got there with plenty of time, which was good since I had to park a good ways away from the park. I overheard someone say that around 2,000 people attended the concert. Wow.
They had a theme to the pieces they chose for the evening, focusing on Spanish music. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. They played Chabrier’s Espana, portions of Bizet’s Suite No. 2 from Carmen, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, Danzon No. 2 by Marquez, a tango from Barber’s Souvenirs, and finished up with Ravel’s Bolero. What a fantastic selection. It was a bit hard to hear the quieter parts of the pieces and movements, mainly because they didn’t have the speaker volume up high enough. Overall it was beautiful. Very well played. The conductor, Rossen Milanov, was energetic, often dancing while he conducted. I love watching conductors when they’re really into the music. The Philly Orchestra is really good. I now have a goal of finding a way to see a few performances during their regular season.
Free neighborhood concerts are not only fabulous for the music, but for the general ambiance and experience. Where a concert in a performance hall tends to bring only to adults, concerts in the park bring out whole families. Small children, like the toddlers and infants I was surrounded by, get to experience music in an environment where they aren’t shushed the entire time. They can move around, dance, and no one minds if they get a bit rowdy at moments. People bring picnics and spread themselves out, lying back and letting the sound of the music envelop them. It’s peaceful, yet there’s an energy. The ambient noise of the people and kids and other dogs doesn’t bother me in the slightest. For me, it only enhances the experience, being able to watch and hear others enjoy the music as much as I am.
The only negative moment of the evening was when a local news helicopter hovered overhead of the park for just a bit too long. I missed hearing an entire movement of the Carmen suite because that damn helicopter drowned out the music entirely, even the loud parts. Very annoying.
Aussie behaved quite well. She enjoyed the attention she got from the kids and other people nearby. I’m sure the small bag of dog treats I brought helped a bit as well. She was a bit restless with all the activity around her for most of the concert, watching everything, that is until the last song, Bolero. My dog took a nap during that song. Who sleeps through Bolero?? Only my dog. As if I needed more confirmation that she’s weird.