Last year’s opening number at the annual Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s Picnic and Pops concert at Palm Coast’s Town Center was Aaron Copland’s “Buckaroo Holiday,” the sort of piece that makes it difficult for listeners to stay still in their seats for want of galloping along to the music’s frenetic rhythms. The Jacksonville Symphony’s 52 musicians are back on Sunday for the annual event presented by the Palm Coast Arts Foundation, and so is Copland as the opening act.
This time it’ll be his “Outdoor Overture,” a calmer romp Copland wrote in 1938 for an indoor performance of the High School of Music and Art in New York City. The nine-minute piece, featuring a melodious trumpet solo and stirring repartees by various sections of the orchestra, didn’t get its first outdoor performance until July 4 the following year, with Copland in the audience. (Don’t expect him in Palm Coast: he died in 1990, and his ashes, scattered around the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts’ Berkshires, don’t often wander far from there. For all of his evocations of American expanse, Copland was a homebody.)
The concert is one of the Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s annual fund-raisers, though that one doesn’t leave much for the kitty when the orchestra’s $20,000 bill and other costs related to the event are paid. The foundation was established in 2001 with a grandiose vision: to build a stately performing arts center in Town Center, and make Palm Coast one of those places on the map synonymous with the arts—like Tanglewood, for example. It would presumably go up next to the Epic Theatre.
It hasn’t worked out that way so far. Between the foundation’s own identity crises, political machinations—Palm Coast from its earliest days has kept the foundation at arms’ length—housing crashes and this area’s decidedly chincy attitude toward the arts, the foundation’s vision has been brighter than its more concrete accomplishments, gala evenings and its enduring partnership with the Jacksonville Symphony notwithstanding. But the foundation a third of the way to its goal of raising $50,000 in order to finance what would be its first serious fund-raising campaign.
The foundation, President Sam Perkovich said, is aiming to raise $5 million to $7 million to build what would be the first phase of the arts center—a special even ts center that would be smaller than the eventual performing arts venue. “We’re probably going to go public with that about May 1,” Perkovich said. Always candid, Perkovich is aware that the foundation’s track record is wanting, when it comes to building the sort of expectations local governments could rely on to get behind ambitious proposals. “We don’t have a fund-raising record, so we need to fix that,” Perkovich said. And absent a solid fund-raising record, Palm Coast is unlikely to lease land in Town Center for the project. (It’s notable that the soster of 800-odd members of the foundation doesn’t include a single member of the Palm Coast City Council, though three county commissioners are members.)
For some organizations, that one pops concert of the year would be accomplishment enough: It fills almost 700 seats in Town Center, at $35 a seat for foundation members, or $40 for non-members. (Some seats are still available, and tickets will be sold at the gate the evening of the concert; picnicking begins at 6:30 p.m., the concert begins at 8 p.m.)
Last year’s concert drew 600 people and was marked by something of a historic occasion nobody knew about until later that evening, when the White House was struggling to keep it a secret until President Obama could announce it live: the killing of Osama bin Laden. Nothing that eventful is expected Sunday evening (not in a year when Mitt Romney is a headliner), so the music—and of course the booze, which tends to flow freely at this picnic, depending on each table’s denomination—can have center stage all to itself. In the first half, after Copland, you’ll hear the “Dance of the Houses” by Amilcare Ponchielli, the 19th century one-hit wonder; arrangements of music by Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentinian tango innovator; and, of course, Mozart’s eternal, infernal Eine kleine nachtmusik, the classical repertoire’s homage to elevators.
After a 15-minute intermission, the Jacksonville Symphony—which will be under the direction of Matthew Kraemer, the associate conductor at the Buffalo Philharmonic and a regular with the Jacksonville Symphony—returns with “American Salute” by Morton Gould, the prolific and eclectic composer and conductor, before devoting the rest of the program to movie and Broadway themes: “Chicago,” “ET,” “The Music Man” and “The Phantom of the Opera” will all get their due, before a final surprise.