The great outdoors is not always quite so great — at least for the logistics of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s long-running, annual Pops in the Park concert.

So, for now, anyway, the event each June in Mill Race Park amphitheater is over, replaced by a season-ending performance June 11 in the air-conditioned comfort of The Commons downtown, which is the symphony’s home venue. Orchestra leaders made the decision recently for the program “Hail to the Heroes,” featuring Ludwig von Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3.

Chris Clerc, the orchestra’s board president and a tuba player in the ensemble that is among the state’s oldest, explained the situation that occasionally even included an extra instrument inadvertently added into the orchestral mix.

“We had run into several issues at Mill Race the past few years,” he said. “The unpredictability of the weather was one of them. And the (nearby) train traffic, oddly enough, was one of the issues.

Story continues below gallery

“We sometimes had two trains go through in the middle of a concert, including ones where they were blaring the horns.”

Obviously, an unscripted musical entrance.

Plus, the fact that an iffy weather forecast could mean clear skies at a concert’s opening and rain a half-hour later on expensive instruments — the park has no stage covering — also played a role in the symphony’s decision to park their plans for an outdoor finale. Moreover, the mostly-volunteer orchestra, working with a modest budget, has been paying for two rentals for that final concert — one for the park, and one for a rain location such as Mill Race Center or The Commons.

Added to the challenge last year was the fact that one local group was using a nearby portion of the park at the same time of last year’s concert. The group wanted quiet for part of its gathering, unaware that the symphony was performing a ticketed show that had been scheduled long beforehand.

Next year’s season-ending performance also is slated at The Commons.

“But it’s too early to say that we’ll never do a concert at the park again,” Clerc said.

The symphony has performed its pops concert, normally including everything from movie soundtrack tunes to well-known Broadway classics to new arrangements of pop-rock hits, since 1993 — then under the baton of second-season conductor Arkady Orlovsky.

“It’ll be kind of like a family picnic,” Orlovsky said before the first such concert.

He was speaking literally, since a Lemley’s Catering food menu featured marinated chicken, barbecue and bratwurst, among other items.

In 1993, the amphitheater was still new after the park opened a year earlier, and the symphony used the pops performance, featuring a “Sound of Music” medley, as its season opener. Back then, the rain location was FairOaks Mall.

The park was seen as another avenue of visibility for the orchestra and a way to attract audiences in a more casual environment outside the sphere of more formal classical music.

Violinist Laura Andrews said she could understand the need for a change. But she acknowledged she will miss Mother Nature carrying their tunes along on a near-summer breeze.

“For me, it’s a little bit of a disappointment,” Andrews said. “That’s especially because it seemed like we had perfect weather last year.”

Spotlighting heroes

What: The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s 90-minute season finale, “Hail to the Heroes,” under the leadership of Music Director Josh Aerie.

When: 5 p.m. June 11.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

On tap: Ludwig von Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3; Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”; the Armed Forces Salute, featuring military songs; Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Festive Overture.”

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, available at the door or at csoindiana.org. Those younger than 12 are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.

Information: csoindiana.org or the Facebook page at Columbus Symphony Orchestra of Indiana.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.