Symphony Under the Sky 2009

Mack and I attended our first Symphony Under the Sky concert in Hawrelak Park over the weekend, and it pushed me to realize one reason to love Edmonton.

It was a task itself to get to the venue – a lack of planning on my part meant we ended up driving, and encountered more vehicles parked around Hawrelak than I have ever seen before. After crawling through the one-way thoroughfare with no luck, we drove to the University and took a free shuttle bus from Stadium Car Park. While we usually take public transit to events of this nature, as it was our first time, I don’t think it was pressed upon attendees enough that parking would be limited (but yes, I accept our punishment for forsaking transit).

At any rate, we arrived having missed the first song, and had to listen to the second (a medley of well-known Hollywood tunes) standing. Our tardiness meant our purchase of reserved seats ($27 a ticket versus $18 for grass seating) was an unexpected boon, even though the available selection (in July, no less) was few and far between.

Our view of the stage

The concert, titled Hollywood Adventures and Romances, was an evening of familiar silver screen scores and songs. While I do enjoy the occasional purely classical number, I have to admit I tend to prefer popular music. The program included songs from Titanic, The Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (my favourite was indeed the latter, and I spent Labour Day re-watching the movie on DVD). Mack enjoyed the encore of the theme from E.T., his favourite childhood film.

Robert Bernhardt was our conductor for the evening. His sense of humour helped make the light evening of music more enjoyable. Also worth mentioning was one of the cellists, who not only brought out a lifejacket before the Titanic number, but also a hat and whip before the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a set of alien ears before E.T. Tyler Hamilton, a top-10 finalist from Canadian Idol’s first season, made a guest appearance, and sang an amusing duet of “People Will Think We’re in Love” with soprano Kathleen Brett.

We spent some time at intermission wandering the area, and avoided the temptation of mini doughnuts and Fat Franks (they are everywhere!). We spotted some concert freeloaders just outside of the amphitheatre fence – I’m sure there will be a similar article written about the best place to treat yourself to Symphony Under the Sky as there was about the Folk Fest.

Packed Amphitheatre

At the break, we ran into one of our former high school vice principals also taking in the show. She indicated that she was a Symphony Under the Sky regular. This comment triggered the thought that all Edmontonians likely have a favourite festival, and a time of year in Edmonton that they look forward to most (for me – the Fringe, of course). And though Labour Day may trigger a change in season, the festivals don’t end here (the Edmonton International Film Festival is in a few weeks, with dEdmonton just around the corner, followed by LitFest, among others).

On the people power front, festivals rely on locals to donate their time. Nearly every event, whether a day in duration or fourteen, would not happen if not for Edmonton’s amazing culture of volunteering. But more than that, I’ve come to realize the variety of festivals – from anime to multicultural, social justice to theatre – provides citizens with the opportunity to lay claim to one in particular that speaks to them and it becomes their yearly in-city escape; a perennial convergence of those with a shared passion for that theme, medium or philosophy.

I think it is about time Edmonton dropped our “City of Champions” nickname to formally adopt “Festival City” instead. While it’s not a new concept (Edmonton Economic Development Corporation has marketed the city as a festival destination for years), it occurred to me this weekend how our year round events, each one distinct and unto their own, help to bring out the best and showcase the tip of the iceberg of what we have to offer.

Lovely scene after nightfall

Thanks to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for a great evening, and for the realization of one of the many reasons why Edmonton is a great place to live.

One thought on “Symphony Under the Sky 2009

  1. I’ve never been to this event, but it does remind me of Shakespeare in the Park. We always biked down and had a picnic while we watched.

    You always make me miss Edmonton so much!

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