Pops for the People: Symphony’s outdoor summer concerts bring music to the masses

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  • REBECCA FARM hosts the Glacier Symphony’s summer pops concerts every summer. This year’s performances, “Pops Goes to the Movies,” are July 7-8. (Brenda Ahearn/This Week in the Flathead)

  • 1

    GUESTS AT a 2016 summer pops concert enjoy a picnic meal — and a few beverages — during the show. (Brenda Ahearn photos/This Week in the Flathead, file)

  • 2

    CONCERTGOERS CHAT at a 2016 summer pops series concert with the symphony’s custom shell in the background.

  • 3

    AMY ZOLTEK of the Glacier Symphony and Chorale performs at a summer pops concert.

  • 4

    JENANNE SOLBERG of the Glacier Symphony and Chorale performs at a summer pops concert.

  • 5

    A COUPLE takes in a summer pops concert.

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    GUESTS ENJOY a picnic at a summer pops concert.

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    MAESTRO JOHN Zoltek conducting the Glacier Symphony at a 2013 summer pops concert.

  • 8

    A LARGE audience at Rebecca Farm watches a summer pops concert from the Glacier Symphony.

  • REBECCA FARM hosts the Glacier Symphony’s summer pops concerts every summer. This year’s performances, “Pops Goes to the Movies,” are July 7-8. (Brenda Ahearn/This Week in the Flathead)

  • 1

    GUESTS AT a 2016 summer pops concert enjoy a picnic meal — and a few beverages — during the show. (Brenda Ahearn photos/This Week in the Flathead, file)

  • 2

    CONCERTGOERS CHAT at a 2016 summer pops series concert with the symphony’s custom shell in the background.

  • 3

    AMY ZOLTEK of the Glacier Symphony and Chorale performs at a summer pops concert.

  • 4

    JENANNE SOLBERG of the Glacier Symphony and Chorale performs at a summer pops concert.

  • 5

    A COUPLE takes in a summer pops concert.

  • 6

    GUESTS ENJOY a picnic at a summer pops concert.

  • 7

    MAESTRO JOHN Zoltek conducting the Glacier Symphony at a 2013 summer pops concert.

  • 8

    A LARGE audience at Rebecca Farm watches a summer pops concert from the Glacier Symphony.

A night at the orchestra, dignified, respectful and proper, is a symbol of prosperity in certain circles — a sign that you’re enjoying the finer things in life. And that, says longtime Glacier Symphony director John Zoltek, is just fine most of the time, but even he and his fellow classical devotees love to let their hair down every now and again.

So that’s exactly what Maestro Zoltek and his musicians, plus the swollen crowds — most in t-shirts and shorts, and others, as encouraged by the symphony, in costume — will do Friday and Saturday when the symphony’s annual summer pops series returns to Rebecca Farm.

“I like them both,” Zoltek said of the comparison between pops and the more traditional orchestral concert. “I’m deeply into regular symphonic literature but I totally enjoy getting loose and playing more popular music and having more fun with the audience.

“In a regular concert, it’s not really appropriate to do that.”

The orchestra will perform the same set, “Pops Goes to the Movies,” both nights, featuring iconic songs from handful of Hollywood blockbusters and recognizable TV shows, and they’ll be doing it all in front of carloads of audience members picnicking on the lawn, swapping stories and watching the sunset.

In preparation, Zoltek has been catching up on some classic cartoons.

“I’m putting together what I call ‘A Tribute to Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd,’ those pieces that maybe people first heard listening to Bugs Bunny,” he said. “It’s fun for me, artistically, to put together a show like this that is much more approachable for families and folks who don’t come to the symphony that often.

Apart from Bugs and friends, the concert also features music from “ET: The Extra Terrestrial,” “Hook,” “Star Wars,” “The Pink Panther” and more. Other tunes include those from classic Westerns and a patriotic encore finale.

The second big change for the symphony, of course, is the venue. Concerts start each night at 7:30 p.m. and are performed in the elements, rain, shine, oppressive heat or any combination thereof. The biggest change for the musicians is the way their instruments are heard, using a system of microphones as opposed to natural acoustics, but in the more than 15 years the symphony has been performing summer pops concerts that setup has been perfected, according to Zoltek.

“We have a great performance acoustic shell, he said. “We don’t approach how we play any differently.”

THE AUDIENCE at summer pops arrives a little differently than a normal concert, too, filing in by the carload or even biking into Rebecca Farm. Admission is charged per vehicle, not per person, and it’s a “loophole” Zoltek and the rest of the staff at the symphony hope attendees take advantage of.

“This event, first of all, it’s a great value,” Zoltek said. “Because you can load up the car and bring your entire family for $30; that could be four, six, eight people.”

Bikers can head up the new bike trails on Kalispell’s west side and gain admission, too, for $5 per bike. Tickets per car are $30 in advance; that price rises to $40 on the day of the show. The first guests will be admitted each night at 5:30 p.m.

There is food, wine and beer for sale during the concert, but guests, too, can save a few bucks by packing their own picnic meal. Grills, however, are not permitted.

For those looking to reserve a seat close to the stage, concergoers can secure an eight-seat picnic table located under tents and out of the elements for $200. Other family-sized tables a bit farther from the stage are available for $100.

For more information or to buy tickets to the show, visit www.gscmusic.org or call 406-407-7000.

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