Fun in the Sun
by Christine Golden - GRS Violin
The Grand Rapids Symphony Picnic Pops concerts began in 1995 with a heat wave. We played that summer in 97 degree heat. Catherine Comet was our music director then, and I remember her saying that a certain famous orchestra, that she had recently conducted, would never have put up with playing in such heat. I personally felt glad that we were not in Chicago, where it was 10 degrees warmer, and each day a few people were dying because of the dangerous heat. At some point during those early concerts, I looked down and saw that a little of the varnish from my violin had melted onto my white blouse. That spurred me to go out and purchase a less expensive violin for outdoor concerts!
It has sometimes been an adventure to play outdoors for the Picnic Pops. In DeVos Hall, we don't have large, exotic-looking insects dive-bombing our music. Although there can be strong drafts in DeVos, usually our music is not blown off the stand. Jason Economides, a violinist who used to play with us, devised a clever system for keeping music on the stand at Cannonsburg. It involves two clothespins, a fishing line, and two sinkers. The music stays in place while the breeze blows, and one can still turn pages.
The crowd at Cannonsburg is, of course, much more vulnerable to extremes of weather than the orchestra. Our audiences come prepared and take it in stride. I enjoy looking out over the crowd from the stage when I'm not playing. I see people eating, dancing, walking way up the hill, talking, listening, and having a good time. When there is a sudden downpour, you see hundreds of colorful umbrellas go up almost at once. The best part is watching the changes in the sky during the course of the evening. It's beautiful at Cannonsburg.
Sometimes I have worried that our audiences would tire of how long it can take to depart the grounds after a particularly popular concert. But as far as I can tell, most don't seem to mind spending a little longer outdoors on a summer evening, eating dessert, talking and laughing with friends, and enjoying the afterglow of a good concert.