Elgin Symphony Orchestra to spend three 'Friday on the Farm' in Pingree Grove
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra will be among the first in the area to hold a live performance in 2021 when it launches its Fridays on the Farm summer concert series next month.
The three-concert series, which kicks off May 21, will take place at The Venue at Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in Pingree Grove.
It will be a return engagement for the ESO, which held smaller concerts there last fall. Executive Director Erik Malmquist said it was a successful test run.
"It was an experiment with a new outdoor space and COVID mitigations, but it turned out to be a real win for us," Malmquist said. "I think that in the long term, we're making plans to come back even after COVID."
Music director Andrew Grams said he was looking forward to the return trip after being "pleasantly surprised" by the fall concerts.
"In the acoustical music world, you don't expect much from outdoor venues," said Grams, who is in his last season conducting the ESO. "Goebbert's was fantastic."
"The venue was beautiful," he added. "The area was beautiful. The playing inside the structure sounded good. It was really an extremely pleasant experience."
Malmquist said the venue has a versatile setup that allows the orchestra to be protected from the elements while giving "a European summer festival feel of being in the open air."
There will be two performances per day during the series, with concerts at 2 and 7 p.m. Concerts are also scheduled for July 2 and Aug. 6.
The May 21 concert will feature internationally renowned violin soloist Karen Gomyo in addition to a 34-piece all-string ensemble from the ESO performing the work of Astor Piazzolla and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The show will open with Piazzolla's "The Four Season of Buenos Aires" and close with Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings."
Patrons will be limited to 150 per show, though officials hope to increase that number in subsequent concerts depending on which phase of pandemic mitigations Illinois has in place on those dates. The size of the orchestra will be increased as well under those circumstances, Grams said.
Malmquist said the smaller fall concerts taught orchestra leaders some lessons they can use going forward, including switching from table seating to a traditional auditorium style with empty space between groups. Foot traffic will be directed to be one-way, and patrons will pre-order snacks and drinks to avoid lines.
Grams said he and the ESO are excited to play together again, and he knows the public is ready, too.
"People are going to jump at opportunities like this to go to something and hear live music and to have experiences that you just can't get cooped up in your home, no matter how high-def your television is."