News Column

Pops concert a Labor Day tradition

August 29, 2014

By Tim Cain, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Aug. 29--After close to two decades, there's one musical tradition that can almost run itself. And if it had to run itself, the audience would make sure it was run correctly.

"Here we go again," Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra director-conductor Michael Luxner said as he prepared for the 18th annual Labor Day Pops outdoor concert at the Nelson Park amphitheater.

The free hour-long concert begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1.

"This is the right time of year," Luxner said. "We haven't had to play with the format, I don't have to market it because it's become a thing where everyone knows what it is. Right now, the biggest problem we would have would be if we were to try to stop doing it."

An idea once considered unusual and quirky has become something else.

"When we started this, part of the strategy was to plan carefully to not conflict with anything else," Luxner said. "We wanted to be sure it was good for us and good for the park and good for the community. And now it's become something that's a tradition.

"It's an hour long, and it's become a thing where people bring picnics and lawn chairs. It's fun. There's not a lot of concert decorum at it."

Musical selections for this year's performance include: Offenbach's "Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld," Grainger's "Irish Tune from County Derry," Copland's "Saturday Night Waltz from Rodeo," Rodgers & Bennett's "Music from 'South Pacific'," "A Touch Of Jazz" arranged by Jerry Brubaker, "Beatles Medley" arranged by Manny Mendelson, Lopez's "A Salute to the Big Apple," and George Cohan's "You're a Grand Old Flag."

The choices are made in hopes of pleasing wide audiences and making the musicians comfortable.

"We don't have a lot of choice on the repertoire," Luxner said. "We have to choose very carefully -- we only have one rehearsal. So we stick with light classics, patriotic songs, some show tunes."

If inclement weather occurs, the performance will be moved to the pavilion just up the hill from the amphitheater.

The first performance by the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra at Kirkland Fine Arts Center is a Sept. 27 concert featuring violin player Tai Murray.|(217) 421-6908


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Source: Herald & Review (Decatur, IL)

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