Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #65: Concerts on the Square

Wednesday evening (June 25) kicked off one of my favorite Madison summertime traditions: Concerts on the Square.

1. “Concerts on the Square” is a series of six concerts performed on consecutive Wednesday nights by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Rain dates are Thursday nights, though some are canceled outright, depending on special guests.

2. Held on the grounds of the State Capitol, the concerts are free to the public, with funding provided through donations of local businesses, concessions and the public.

3. “Concerts on the Square” is like one giant picnic with 20,000 of your closest friends. The event draws a crowd that wraps nearly all the way around the Capitol.

4. Founded in 1960, the WCO first began its “Concerts on the Square” series in 1984, led by David Lewis Crosby. 2008 marks the event’s 25th anniversary, which will be celebrated during the season’s final concert on July 30. That evening’s theme is “Our Town” and will include Copland’s “Our Town,” as well as local artists such as diva Kitt Foss and Tracy Silverman.

5. Concert attendees can reserve a catered table (expensive) or bring a blanket and sprawl on the lawn. Blankets can be set out after 3pm. Any earlier and they will be confiscated. Lawn chairs with tubular legs of six inches are also permitted, but all other chairs must be set up along the terrace or in the section of street cordoned off for the event.

6. Concert goers not reserving a table can bring a picnic dinner or patronize one of several food vendors set up on the Square. There are also many eating establishments within easy walking distance from which one might procure sustenance.

7. Musical selections range from classical artists such as Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Handel, to Strauss, Gershwin, Lerner & Loewe, Sullivan, and Copland--and to more modern artists such as electric violinist Tracy Silverman. Classical or pops, there’s always something for everyone. Two pieces I'm looking forward to hearing are Vaughn Williams' Rhosymedre (a favorite from HS orchestra days) and Saint-Saens' "Mon Coeur S'Ouvre a ta Voix" from Samson et Delila.

8. In 1998, beloved WCO conductor David Lewis Crosby died of a heart attack en route to that season’s final concert. I’ll never forget how stunned we were to learn of his passing, at only age 51. He was taken from us all too soon!

9. In 1999, the search for a new WCO conductor was launched, with a number of perspective conductors invited to “audition” before the entire city. Each candidate scripted a performance of that season’s “Concerts on the Square” and audience members then graded the musical selections and how well they and the conductor seemed to fit the orchestra and atmosphere.

10. Friends and I were pleased that Andrew Sewell, our top choice, was selected as the new WCO maestro. Sewell and family hale originally from New Zealand, though he trained in the US. And did I mention the accent? *grin*

11. Last year’s event fell on the 4th of July, especially fitting as it was maestro Andrew Sewell and wife Mary's first Independence Day as US citizens. The pair were presented a US flag flown over the Nation’s Capitol, to enthusiastic applause from the audience.

12. The WCO has produced three recordings: Close to the Music (2004), Momentum (2005), and the recently released Mozart: The Early Concerti.

13. I'll end on a quote: “People are at their best when they are up on the Square. …They’re happy, they’re smiling; it’s very neighborly and warm. You see the kids dancing. You see people passing a corkscrew from blanket to blanket. It’s really a slice of our community at its best.” ~Bob Sorge, former WCO executive producer

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

Lanie Fuller * Jennifer McKenzie * Kaige
Janice Seagraves * Shelley Munro * Phoebe Jordan
Nina Pierce * Paige Tyler * Savannah Chase
Tempest Knight * Ms Menozzi * Darla

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Lanie Fuller said...

Interesting post!

Cassandra said...

That looks like so much fun! I'd be there right with ya if I lived closer.

The Thursday 13 is up at the MMC:

This week it's T.K. turn and you should see the sexy swimsuits she's picked for us.

Now if only I could fit in them. ROFL!


Shelley Munro said...

Sounds like fun! We have concerts like this in Auckland before Christmas with lots of carols. They're fun.

Kaige said...

That's so awesome. I'm jealous. Sounds like it's a blast.

Phoebe Jordan said...

Happy T13! This list is pretty cool. Hope to see you at my 7th edition about Charlaine Harris.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

OH MAN!!!! I'm so jealous. We have summer concerts here, but not classical. I would LOVE to see something like this.
We have a Jazz Festival in March, but it's pretty pricey and usually out of our budget.
It looks like a blast.

Nina Pierce said...

Oh, that sounds so wonderful. I'd be there every Wednesday. How much fun!

Paige Tyler said...

Sounds fun!


My TT is at

Savannah Chase said...

oh very cool and looks like a blast...

Happy T13

Tempest Knight said...

Oh I adore open concerts. *wg* There's this aura of peace and freedom to them, I don't know why. Hehehe!

Darla said...

What a fun tradition! I'd have to drag the rest of the family, but once we got there, I'm sure they'd love it, too.

Heather said...

Thanks Lanie!

Cassandra~ Definitely fun. And relaxing. Great for people watching, too!

Shelley~ The Auckland Christmas concerts sound fun. I'd be right there with you!

Kaige~ Definitely a blast, and the crowd is so diverse.

Phoebe~ Thank you, and thanks for visiting!

Heather said...

Jennifer~ There are other, smaller weekly concerts around the city (jazz nights and others that are a mix of genres), but this is definitely the best.

Nina~ Wonderful indeed! We try not to miss a single concert.

Paige and Savannah~ Very fun! Good music, good company...who could ask for more? *g*

Tempest~ Aren't open air concerts the best? You can literally feel your stress floating away on the strains of the music.

Darla~ LOL - I'm sure the fam would enjoy the atmosphere once you got them there.

Nichole Ellis said...

As usual, sounds like a blast!

Thanks for sharing!


Heather said...

It is, Nichole -- thanks for stopping by!