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When was the last time you sat down and listened to music without words? You hear it all the time, whether you realize it or not. In movies and on TV, emotions from joy to fear to love are evoked in part thanks to the music, whether it’s something traditional and classic like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 or the Star Wars soundtrack.
That music is now taking center stage thanks to a number of local orchestra symphonies. Yes, it’s symphony season in the Valley, and if you think that means putting on fancy clothes and sitting in a theater listening to music by a bunch of long-dead European guys, you’re in for a big surprise (though sometimes it’s that, which is fun!).
Pops in the Park takes the music outside
To kick off orchestra season, I trekked to Tulare last Saturday to enjoy some quality sounds from the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra (formerly known as the Tulare County Orchestra).
Every year, Tulare’s Zumwalt Park hosts Pops in the Park, a kid-friendly outdoor event with fun activities and great music. I’ve been looking for ways to introduce my kids to classical music, and this was the perfect way to do that. The symphony is generally for all ages, but Pops in the Park is the event to attend if you’re trying to ease young people into music appreciation.
First of all, there’s food. People brought picnics, and food trucks were on hand for those of us who didn’t pack a dinner. When I arrived, I made a beeline for the Quesadilla Gorilla food truck and enjoyed a cheese, bacon, and chicken quesadilla.
My kids instantly swarmed the instrument “petting zoo.” Various instruments from oboes to cellos were on hand for kids to touch and even play.
Of course, my kids went right for the tuba. All in all, it was a noisy, educational experience, but I had cheese so I was feeling tolerant. I think I even clapped for their efforts, which looking back, was generous of me. There was also a bounce house and face painting—both great ways to build excitement for the evening’s concert.
The concert began at eight with a whirlwind of strings and closed with John Philip Sousa (American march enthusiast and creator of the tuba-like sousaphone). Playing crowd favorites from animated films like How to Train Your Dragon and Moana, a festive atmosphere filled Zumwalt Park.
At one point, all the kids were offered light-up batons to wave in the darkness. After a short lesson from conductor Bruce Kiesling, they even helped to conduct a song.
Families clapped along to marches and children ran around on the grass, whirling to music from the movie Grease. As a parent, it was nice to experience culture without having to worry about my kids’ behavior. I highly recommend this event for anyone with small kids and a desire to hear excellent music.
Pops in the Park is an annual event, so you’ll have to wait awhile for the next one, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of other live music spectaculars to take advantage of until then.
This season, the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra will present concerts with a variety of themes, from next month’s “October is for Lovers” to December’s “Holiday Madness,” January’s “The Planets,” and “Movie Night: the music of John Williams” in February (more on him in a bit).
You can get all of the details on these shows on the symphony’s website here.
Indiana Jones, ET and Harry Potter—all in the same room
Speaking of John Williams, on Saturday, Sept. 16, the Fresno Philharmonic kicks off its season with a pops performance featuring his music, which kids (and adults) always love.
The composer of basically all of the movie music you loved growing up, Williams is responsible for the soundtracks of the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter movies, JAWS and Star Wars. John Williams is always a fan favorite, so tickets are selling fast.
If you’re interested in other Pops performances, the Fresno Phil will present “Home for the Holidays” in December and “Great Balls of Fire,” which features the music of Elton John, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, George Gershwin, Jerry Lee Lewis, in May (See? It’s not just music from the 18th century.)
Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, there will also be concerts featuring music from the likes of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, to name a couple. A list of upcoming Masterworks shows can be found here.
There’s nothing like live music. Make sure to get your tickets for the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra when they go on sale Monday, Sept. 18. Performances are at the historic Fox Theater in Visalia. You can follow them on Facebook here.