More than 300,000 patrons flock to Winter Park each year for the annual Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. But something has been absent from the festival for more than three decades — an orchestral music showcase.
For years, the Florida Symphony Orchestra had performed music for the many people who attended the annual arts celebration. Eventually, that tradition fell by the wayside.
That changes with the 60th Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival starting March 15 and ending Sunday, March 17. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Florida Symphony Orchestra’s successor, will perform at the festival with its Spring Pops Concert Sunday, March 17. The orchestra will perform its annual springtime show, consisting of a mix of classical and contemporary pieces, alongside two featured solo artists.
“The festival wanted to have a special moment for the community for their anniversary year,” Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra Executive Director Christopher Barton said. “We found a way to align the concerts. We always enjoy performing in Winter Park with their special opportunities. … One of the most important things we can do as an orchestra is to get out into the community, bring friends and family together in a beautiful place to enjoy music.”
The 90-minute program, led by music director Eric Jacobsen, will include songs from Neil Diamond, The Beatles and classical hits from Rossini and Wagner. What’s more, the show will have solo performances from guest artist Christina Courtin and violinist Leah Flynn. Barton said he hopes the performers will add a touch of virtuosity and variety to the concert.
A Grand Tradition
Festival President Barbara Gugel is excited to finally see the Orlando Philharmonic perform. She has been planning for it for almost two years.
“We started talking to (the Orlando Philharmonic) 18 months ago,” Gugel said. “This is the one time it will be during the arts festival. The city does love its Spring Pops concerts. This is kind of an experiment on both of our parts.”
While prior Florida Symphony Orchestra shows at the festival eventually faltered from a lack of funding, according to festival committee members, this year’s performance is paid in full with a grant from the Charlotte Julia Hollander Trust and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation.
Many of the festival’s staples — 225 artists selected by three judges, 15 different arts categories and more than $70,000 in awards — still will be found throughout the weekend. But to further mark this year’s anniversary occasion, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce currently is home to an exhibit displaying various festival art posters from years past.
Gugel, a longtime enthusiast of the festival and member of the volunteer board for a few years, is excited for patrons to see the surprises the 60th festival has in store.
“We’re hoping the (Orlando Phiharmonic Orchestra’s) type of music will draw more of an art-buying crowd,” Gugel said. “Our Friday night jazz concert is very much a tradition (that) will continue, but we wanted to have music on other the end of the spectrum. … People can (reserve a spot on the grass) at 9 a.m. Sunday for the concert at 3.”
MEET LEAH FLYNN
The orchestra is having a special artist contribute to the Spring Pops concert — 11-year-old violinist Leah Flynn.
The young artist will be performing a five- to six-minute solo of “Meditation” by Jules Massenet. It’s a piece Flynn knows well; she’s been playing it for a few years.
“It brings such a beautiful piece of mind and tranquility and calmness; it always makes me feel happy,” Flynn said. “Everything stressful just comes off.”
She practices a few hours each day with her father and learns from a teacher once a week. Flynn started performing with the Orlando Philharmonic when she was just 9 and was part of the holiday concert in Winter Park last December. Flynn’s mother, Paula, said her daughter, who plans to be a concert violinist, averages around one public show a month.
“She’s done some wonderful things with us,” Barton said. “She’s such a talented and committed young musician … she performed a gorgeous solo at our 25th anniversary gala. She’s blessed with talent and supportive parents. It’s special to have her as part of our Philharmonic family.”
IF YOU GO
60th Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival
WHEN: Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 17
WHERE: Central Park, Winter Park
SEE IT LIVE
Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s Spring Pops Concert
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17
WHERE: Central Park, Winter Park