The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Symphony celebrates 25 years of Picnic Pops with fireworks and patriotic music, July 11-12

Pianist Rich Ridenour returns to play Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" to open the Grand Rapids Pops' 25th anniversary at Cannonsburg Ski Area
Grand Rapids Symphony celebrates the 25th anniversary season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops in 2019

Grand Rapids Symphony celebrates the 25th anniversary season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops in 2019 /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

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Coming at the at Grand Rapids Symphony Picnic Pops

Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles

Thursday and Friday, July 18-19, 7:30 p.m.

Classical Mystery Tour

Stars of such shows as Beatlemania on Broadway and Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, the musicians of Classical Mystery Tour look and sound just like John, Paul, George and Ringo would have had they played with the Grand Rapids Symphony at Cannonsburg Ski Area back in the day. Join Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt for music from the Fab Four’s White Album, released in 1968, with such songs as Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and While My Guitar Gently Weeps, along with the very best of The Beatles’ symphonic songs including Yesterday, A Day in the Life and Here Comes the Sun

 

Dancing in the Street: Music of Motown and More

Thursday and Friday, July 25-26, 7:30 p.m.

From the streets of Detroit, captured in the studios of Hitsville USA, the music of Motown made such recording artists as Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Smoky Robinson and the Miracles famous. Relive the magic of Motown with songs including I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and My Girl featuring Bob Bernhardt and the Grand Rapids Pops. 

 

Nashville: The Songwriters, Their Stories. The Symphony.

Starring the Music City Hit-Makers

Friday, Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m.

You may not know Brett James, Hillary Lindsey or Rivers Rutherford, but you know their work. The three Grammy, CMA and ACM nominated singer/songwriters have written songs for Nashville’s most iconic stars including Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley and Lady Antebellum, racking up more than 15 songs that hit No. 1 on the charts. James, Lindsey and Rutherford join Bob Bernhardt and the Grand Rapids Pops playing symphonic arrangements by ACM Musician of the Year and Nashville studio legend, Charles Judge, arranger and conductor for Carrie Underwood’s concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and Ravinia Festival

 

Pianist Rich Ridenour, a Grand Rapids native who performed at the first Picnic Pops in 1995, returns for the 25th anniversary.

Pianist Rich Ridenour, a Grand Rapids native who performed at the first Picnic Pops in 1995, returns for the 25th anniversary. /Courtesy photo

Classical Fireworks has been a part of every season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

Classical Fireworks has been a part of every season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Twenty-five years ago, on the hills of Cannonsburg Ski Area, several thousand gathered for an evening’s entertainment.

The ski lift was still. Not a flake of snow covered the ground. In fact, it was a scorching hot summer’s day for the debut of the Grand Rapids Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops.

Just in front of the stage, concert-goers decorated tables with table clothes, candelabras and crystal wine glasses. out on the lawn, folks spread out blankets and enjoyed Picnic suppers while they fanned themselves with concert programs.

The Grand Rapids Symphony celebrates the 25th anniversary of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops  with Classical Fireworks: Salute to America, a star-spangled, spectacular salute to America, at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 11-12.

Associate Conductor John Varineau will lead the orchestra in such patriotic melodies as John Williams’ Liberty Fanfare, John Phillip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, and an Armed Forces Salute along with music by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Three more weeks of “Symphony Under the Sky” includes a tribute to The Beatles, a salute to the music of Motown, and great country hits of today starring the songwriters who wrote them.

Twenty-five years ago, the debut of the Grand Rapids Symphony Picnic Pops followed more than two years of planning and preparation, including erecting a stage and band shell to transform a ski slope into a concert venue. But Mother Nature didn’t make it easy.

“It was an oppressively hot, 95-degree, sunny day,” recalled Stacy Ridenour, Grand Rapids Symphony’s Vice President and General Manager at the time. “Tickets were sold, but would they come in this heat?”

“We waited, and they eventually came,” she said. “The orchestra soldiered through the heat, and the opening night was a huge success.”

This summer, the 25th anniversary season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops opens much as it did on that steamy day in July 1995 with Ridenour’s husband, pianist Rich Ridenour playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Held on Thursdays and Fridays in July, the Picnic Pops season continues with Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles at 7:30 p.m. on July 18-19. Classical Mystery Tour, the world’s best Beatles show with symphony orchestra, returns for its fourth Picnic Pops appearance at Cannonsburg in a show that also will be the 100th program in Picnic Pops history.

Music from the Fab Four’s celebrated White Album plus such songs as Here Comes the Sun, Penny Lane and The Long and Winding Road, will be a part of the show led by Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt, a huge Beatles fan himself.

Dancing in the Street: Music of Motown and More at 7:30 p.m. on July 25-26 welcomes three guest singers to Cannonsburg for songs including Diana Ross’ Touch Me in the Morning, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, The Four Tops’ Reach Out/I’ll Be There and Martha Reeves’ Dancing in the Street.

The special guest vocalists include Shayna Steele, who wowed the Picnic Pops audience in 2017 for Women Rock! Steele also will return to Grand Rapids in September for Queens of Soul, a salute to the music of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Adele, on Sept. 27-29 to open the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Fox Motors Pops Series in DeVos Performance Hall.

Capping off the summer is Nashville: The Songwriters. Their Stories. The Symphony, starring the Music City Hit-Makers for one night only at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2. The show stars singer/songwriters Brett James who wrote The Truth for Jason Aldean, and Hillary Lindsey who wrote Blessed for Martina McBride. The two also collaborated on Jesus, Take the Wheel for Carrie Underwood. The show also stars Rivers Rutherford who wrote Living in Fast Forward for Kenny Chesney and Real Good Man for Tim McGraw. The three will join the Grand Rapids Pops to sing the songs and share stories about the singers and the scene where the Music City Hit-Makers reign supreme.

Gates at Cannonsburg Ski Area open at 5:45 p.m. each night for picnicking and pre-concert entertainment, including free, kid-friendly activities such as face painting, crafts, and a musical instrument petting zoo.

Pack your own or purchase food from the grill at the Cannonsburg concession stand. Alcoholic beverages are permitted on the grounds, and parking is free for concertgoers. VIP parking is available for each concert for only $12 per vehicle.

Single tickets in advance for each show begin at $20 adults, $5 students for lawn seats. Table seats and reserved chairs also are available. All single tickets are $5 more the day of the show.

Season tickets offering substantial discounts are on sale now. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to PicnicPops.org

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