Free concerts a big summer hit

One of the highlights of the Australian summer performing arts calendar is to experience a new or favourite work under the sky—for free. And February is one of the biggest months on the calendar.

Free concerts a big summer hit

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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performs its second free concert this Wednesday (19 February) at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performs its Symphony Under the Stars in Launceston this weekend (22 February).

Adelaide Youth Strings, the Adelaide Youth Orchestra’s primary school string ensemble, will perform as the curtain-raiser to the ASO’s Santos Symphony Under the Stars on 26 February.

The free outdoor concert is a tradition that is enormously popular, attracting a very different audience to the orchestras’ subscription seasons.

Last spring/summer well over 100,000 people enjoyed outdoor symphony concerts around the country.

Sidney Myer, a violinist himself, established free, open-air concerts with theMelbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1929—and from 1959 these were performed in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, named in his honour. The MSO performs three free concerts in February this year. Last year almost 36,000 people attended one of the MSO’s four free concerts.

Sydney crowds have enjoyed Symphony in The Domain (formerly known as Symphony Under the Stars) with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for the past 32 years. The free concert, which last year attracted 35,000 people, traditionally rounds off with the Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with cannons and fireworks.

The SSO has also held a free outdoor concert in Parramatta Park for the past six years, with another concert scheduled there for March this year. Last year 4,500 people attended.

Perth hosts its annual Symphony in the City in December with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and has done for the past seven years. Last year’s event attracted an audience of around 20,000. It is also webcast on iiNet’s Freezone and broadcast regionally via the Westlink network.

WASO also holds screenings in regional venues—last year it had six screenings in venues around the state.

Adelaide Youth Strings, the Adelaide Youth Orchestra’s primary school string ensemble, will perform as the curtain-raiser to the ASO’s Santos Symphony Under the Stars on 26 February. As in Sydney, it ends with1812 Overture and pyrotechnics.

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performs its Symphony Under the Stars in Hobart and Launceston.

And Queensland Symphony Orchestra, to avoid the likelihood of a good drenching, holds its free Symphony Under the Stars concerts in September—during the Brisbane Festival—last year attracting around 6,000 people. It also holds free concerts in Gladstone and Rockhampton (attended last year by a total of more than 3000 people).

Following the success of its ANZAC Concert last year (attracting more than 2300 people), QSO and the Queensland Branch of the RSL will unite again to present a free community concert on Anzac Day Eve 2014.

It’s a great way to build audiences—attracting people who might not normally subscribe to an orchestra’s season. Young families with toddlers, couples on picnic rugs, tourists, students and music lovers of all sorts, gather under the stars to hear the best orchestral music that is available in Australia.

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