Savannah Philharmonic’s Picnic in the Park draws thousands for music, fun and cannons

Thousands of people on picnic blankets and beneath brightly lit tents crowded Forsyth Park on Sunday to watch the Savannah Philharmonic’s annual Picnic in the Park concert.

Led by Artistic Director and Conductor Peter Shannon, the Philharmonic played over an hour of free music for the packed park.

The event has been an early-fall staple for Savannah since it began a little over two decades ago. This year, the theme of the picnic was “Illuminating The Night.” Folks were encouraged to light up their picnic site with creative lighting for a chance to win prizes.

The Philharmonic did some illuminating of their own this year. For the first time, the concert was accompanied by a light show, complete with dancing spotlights and a projected screen on the Forsyth bandshell. The additions were made possible by a sponsor of the event, Stage Front Production Services.

Terri O’Neil, executive director for the Savannah Philharmonic said the event is the largest concert of the year for the orchestra.

“It’s so, so fulfilling, because we adopted this program in 2015 as a part of our mission to enrich and educate an continue to raise awareness for cultural art in Savannah, and for us, it’s a gift back to the city,” O’Neil said.

This year’s presenting sponsor was Enmarket.

Savannah’s premiere symphony wasn’t the only group entertaining the crowd in Forsyth Park on Sunday. Students from Savannah Classical Academy’s Strings Conservatory, Savannah High School Band and Savannah College of Art & Design’s Honey Bees all performed selections throughout the day.

The 3rd Infantry Division, the U.S. Army Band, Color Guard and Salute Battalion also performed. The 3rd ID also provided their salute cannons as part of the program.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Performing Arts Supervisor Mel Whitehead also led a group of teachers and administrators, along with the Philharmonic, in performing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Philharmonic also featured Savannah-based American Traditions Vocal Competition Director Mikki Sodergren. This year, Sodergren performed two arias with the Philharmonic, “O mio babbino caro” from Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” or “Habanera” from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.”

As is now tradition, Savannah Philharmonic closed the concert with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with booming cannon fire, provided by Fort Stewart’s 3rd Infantry Division Color Guard.

“For us, we’re giving the gift of music,” O’Neil said. “How beautiful is that?”