For as long as Sam Perkovich has led the Palm Coast Arts Foundation—by far the most ambitious and, until recently, least capitalized arts organization in Flagler County—she’s maintained a Panglossian optimism that at times defied reality: a second home for the Jacksonville Symphony in Palm Coast? A 2,300-seat performing arts center in the middle of deserted Town Center? A multi-phase development that would start with an outdoors venue the foundation could finally call home, with a side office of its own?
And yet little by little, the pieces of that grand design, starting with the transforming reality of the outdoors venue in time for Sunday’s Jacksonville Symphony Pops concert, have been falling in place as surely as the fresh-cut squares of sod now covering 32,600 square feet of what had until just last winter been so much bland ground in the Town Center desert. By dusk Sunday that sod will be covered with well over 1,000 picnicking people at 110 tables (with each table raising $350 for the foundation), and more people spread around the grass, a record crowd in the foundation’s 10th anniversary edition of the pops concerts.
This time, the foundation will be truly home, as opposed to the eight previous times when the concert was held down the road at Central Park, on city ground and the time it was held at Destination Daytona because of rain (that ninth occasion was an outright cancellation because of rain.) It’s been a very long and at times challenging journey. But the Palm Coast Arts Foundation has finally found, as Candide would say, its own garden to cultivate. It’s taken a bold vision and bolder determination. Perkovich and her colleagues had both. They’ve had to.
Ten years on, a bold vision joins sod to symphony in Town Center.
So it’s fitting that when the Jacksonville Symphony starts its annual concert here at 8 p.m.—and after the obligatory bow to Sousa’s Star-Spangled Banner—the first piece will be Leonard Bernstein’s overture to “Candide,” the opera based on Voltaire’s tale of the eternal optimist Pangloss and his student Candide. Candide travels the world and back, losing a few loves, limbs, illusions and precepts along the way before, so to speak, finding his Florida.
Perkovich and her foundation found theirs. “Not only is it a brand new site for us and the biggest step forward we’ve ever taken,” Perkovich said, referring to her colleagues in the foundation membership, “but we want to remind people this is a grassroots, non-profit group of volunteers, they have nothing to gain from this, it’s just to make a better quality of life for our community.”
The foundation has stacked up the successes in the past three years, starting with securing the land off Central Avenue in a deal with Palm Coast government, then accumulating three grants—two of $150,000, one of $100,000—from the state and, soon, from the Tourist Development Council, with matching dollars to go with two of the three, enabling the construction of the outdoors venue and the addition of temporary offices.
Perkovich has kept the deals coming between the county and the city, with the latest being what will amount to a surprise gift from the city in the form of sizable, permanent bathrooms near the grounds of the new venue. That was unexpected, but the city will apparently be using money from its parks and recreation fund to build the facilities, which will be roomier than those at Central Park, Perkovich said. The city council will be briefed on the plan at a workshop next month. The facilities will be open to the public: Palm Coast wants them there to enable people who walk, run and cycle at that end of Town Center to have rest rooms.
The plan for Sunday was to have a raised stage already built. That was the one thing that had to be deferred, because American With Disabilities Act regulations required a few additional amenities that couldn’t be built in time for the concert. So the orchestra will [perform on a portable dance floor that’ll be laid atop the grass, on a raised earthen platform, under the big tent that’s usually sheltered it at Central Park. The actual stage will be next on the foundation’s construction list. But the sidewalks on the rim of the outdoors venue have been enlarged and enhanced, and of course the landscaping is all new.
“It does look great, because we’re on our own site finally,” Perkovich said. “I think so many have heard us talk about this for so long, actually being on the site and seeing something going on should convince people that we’re here to stay.”
When King George wanted to make a splash with his flock he commissioned Handel to write him party tunes and threw himself a gigantic feast on the Thames in the heart of London, where Handel’s suites were performed—over and over, as the king liked them so much. The opening piece? The Overture to the Royal Fireworks, which will follow the “Candide” Overture Sunday evening, in the spirit of night’s feasts. And just so no one take themselves too seriously, the musicians will then shift to Julius Fucik’s Benny Hillish “Entry of the Gladiators” and the “Light Cavalry Overture” by a composer no one ever remembers as well as the movies and cartoons that appropriated the music.
There’ll be a lot more from the pops side of the classical repertoire, but one unquestioned highlight of the evening will be a performance of the middle but by no means slow movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto (he only wrote one, then promptly died) performed by Maxwell Remmer, a 13-year-old phenomenon. Remmer started studying the violin at age 5 and picked up the cello just three years ago. He’s the Jacksonville Youth Orchestra’s principal cellist. Remmer will be giving the 83-some members of the Flagler Youth Orchestra and their family members, who will be attending Sunday’s concert at seriously discounted rates thanks to the foundation, a little extra inspiration as he quivers his way through the piece.
Since the orchestra—and the audience—will have its share of 13 year olds, and by concert’s end, with many adults in the audience having, one hopes, drank themselves back to youthful glee, the performers will (almost) end with John Williams’s Raiders March before the “Armed Forces Salute” and, presumably, a surprise encore.
The event is just about sold out, but there may yet be a table or two left, and if you show up at the imaginary door, you won’t be turned away, but it’s a $45 entry fee.