Wind, bugs and sun are not ideal for an orchestra performance, but for the Marion Philharmonic Orchestra, these are challenges they’ve been taking on for their 2020 season.
On Sunday, Sept. 20, a string quintet from Marion Philharmonic Orchestra performed an array of classical pieces under the Gazebo in Upland Depot Park. This performance kicked off their unconventional season in a new way.
The MPO season usually commences in late October with the full ensemble, with thematic costumes encouraged. It then runs until late spring. Due to COVID-19 however, their last concert was their Holiday Pops concert in December. Since the break has already stretched on longer than usual, MPO’s 51st season commenced early.
Occasionally, MPO will hold a summer concert. They also held one smaller ensemble show last season. When thinking creatively about COVID-19, they combined the two, creating a new sort of experience.
“It's very nice to be able to be out in the community again,” said Joy Frecker, executive director of MPO and harp player for the afternoon.
Frecker has found that the smaller shows do hold a special sort of charm for the audience, and lets MPO’s supporters experience classical music in a new way.
With audience members coming from all over the city of Marion and Grant county, the show had a good turnout. Many supporters of MPO were happy to hear the string music again.
Marion local Anne Maddox attends every one of MPO’s shows, and made sure to make time for Sundays’ performance despite her three other commitments that day.
“I just love classical music,” Maddox said. “And the fact that they are local and need our support.”
Many of MPO’s shows are free, including the outdoor ensembles that have been held. With this, they aim for orchestra music to be accessible to the public. They traditionally hold multiple shows throughout the season aimed at children to get them excited about the orchestra.
The children’s concert that is held at the end of September holds a special place in Fredrick’s heart. In particular, she loves the thankyou notes that the elementary and middle schoolers send back to the sponsors, and the individual interests each take in different instruments.
“If I'm having a bad day, all I have to do is just read those thank you notes,” she said. “It is so heartwarming, and just to see what they picked up on.”
She remembers how in her own children’s concert she went to as a kid, she was fixated on the percussion section and how that interest continued through college, getting her interested in the marimba.
MPO is now holding a similar outdoor Marimba concert at Depot Park at Oct. 4, both at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. They also are rescheduling their children’s concert for later in April, along with a Disney show in May. The Disney show will play scores from various movies, accompanied by video clips of the movies of choice.
“So many people will say that they remember that first children's concert,” Said Maria Slater, past president and current member of the MPO board. “Often that leads them to get into performance themselves. It's really surprising.”
Even with the scheduling changes, MPO is doing their best to accommodate their supporters and continue to provide for their community, keeping them connected to the music they love.
They will continue to hold their shows outside as long as weather permits, and are continuing to find new ways to adapt their season in the best ways for their supporters.
“We are very privileged to have them,” said Maddox.