Summer Pops returns to SouthPark

Arrangements from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and familiar tunes from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Mission Impossible” will soon fill SouthPark’s Symphony Park as locals flock to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra’s annual Summer Pops concert series.

The annual event has been outside  SouthPark Mall for about 11 of the 30 years it’s been in existence, Bud Simmons, director of programming for the series, said. This year, participants can expect the same enthusiasm and excellence as years past, Simmons added.

The five-concert series will kick-off Sunday, June 9. Tickets and passes are available for purchase online at www.charlottesym or by phone at 704-972-2000. Walk-in sales begin at 4 p.m. and gates open at 5 p.m.

Prelude acts start at 7 p.m. and the symphony will perform at 8:15 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for adults and are free for children under 18. Season passes are available for $35.

“We’ve been doing this for a very long time. We just see the families come out and we know there is a great interest,” Simmons said. “It’s a casual way for young people to get exposed to classical-type music.”

The events give people of all ages the chance to enjoy a relaxing evening outside with the symphony, Simmons said. With space to picnic and enjoy time with friends, Simmons said the events really promote family and friendship.

Previous events have brought more than 5,000 people each evening, with nearly 7,000 attending the annual July 3 concert that ends with a fireworks display right in the heart of SouthPark – a challenge, Simmons said, since SouthPark’s congested buildings don’t create a lot of space for a fireworks celebration.

“The whole idea is it’s just a great summer time for families and children. We just hope we can add to the summer experience,” Simmons said.

Maestro Albert-George Schram, a regular Charlotte Symphony guest conductor, will conduct four out of the five Summer Pops concerts. It’s his 13th season with the event. He said it’s the fun atmosphere and the opportunity to hang out with “thousands of your closest friends” that brings him back year to year. Christopher Warren-Green will conduct the second Summer Pops concert.

For Schram, he and the symphony work together to ensure the summer season appeals to everyone. From the classics to Disney theme songs, he says he doesn’t really have a favorite piece because he just loves conducting and loves to hear the children sing along to the beloved tunes.

“I don’t have favorites. I like to conduct anything and I like the variety. We do have a heck of a lot of variety. That is part of the joy of the whole thing,” Schram said.

Sunday’s performance, titled “The Thrill of the Orchestra,” will feature works from Rossini, Peck, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Stephenson and Tchaikovsky. In addition to the June 9 event, concerts will be held June 16, 23 and 30, with the culminating event and fireworks display on July 3, a Wednesday.

“We love that we get to do our thing for such huge crowds. Everyone is there to hear us make wonderful music in a relaxed atmosphere,” Schram said. “Everyone comes and has a bite to eat and some hooch of some sort. What’s not to love?”

For more information on Summer Pops, visit the Symphony’s website,

Symphony Park is located at 4400 Sharon Road behind the SouthPark Mall in south Charlotte.

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