Sound of Charlotte Blog

Music al Fresco

Photo taken on June 15, 2014 at Symphony Park. Photo © Genesis Group Photography
 
 L to R - Independence Park, Freedom Park, and former tent at Symphony Park
 
The Charlotte Symphony played a free outdoor concert during its very first season. In July of 1932, the orchestra performed in Independence Park, the city's oldest public park. The program included Beethoven's might Fifth Symphony and the Overture from Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner. Some 3000 people attended.
 
Over the years, the orchestra occasionally performed open-air concerts, inaugurating, for example, Festival in the Park at Freedom Park with two concerts in 1962.  But the CSO Summer Pops series as we know it today began in 1983, when the CSO took over the independently-run Summer Pops, organized in 1975 with musicians from Charlotte and other nearby towns.
 
The symphony's Summer Pops series had a variety of homes: Freedom Park, Independence Park and the lawn at SouthPark Mall. On sultry Sunday evenings, crowds of Charlotteans spread picnic blankets and lawn chairs, but the settings were not always ideal for musicians.
 
"The season used to go from the third week in June into early August," remembers CSO Principal cellist Alan Black.  "It was so brutal. The bandshell at Freedom Park it was so hot when we used to play there because it was enclosed, and the air couldn't flow. And we used to do it for TV (broadcast on WTVI), so there were lights everywhere."
 
In June 2002, the orchestra and thousands of listeners found a new permanent home in the elegant Symphony Park at SouthPark. Its sloped lawns and canopied stage are the setting each June for four weeks of Pops concerts, currently lead by Albert-George Schram.
 
"I enjoy and relish being a part of these symphony concerts in the park in June," Schram says. "It allows the orchestra to dig deeper into the community, to crawl inside. That has been the greatest joy."
 
 
This article originally appeared in "The Sound of Charlotte: The First 75 Years of the Charlotte Symphony," a commemorative history written by Meg Freeman Whalen.

Posted in Summer. Tagged as History.

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