Greetings and salutations,
It was 29 years ago this week that we moved to Madison so that I could attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. Our plan at the time was to eventually return to North Dakota, our home state and where most of our family resided at the time. However, we really fell in love with Madison despite it’s quirkiness. Even though Madison is nearly 250,000 people, in many ways it still feels like a typical Midwest cow town. The UW with over 40,000 students, the State Capitol on the Isthmus, the lakes, and the diversity make it especially appealing, at least to us and why we decided to settle, work and play here.
One of the events that has kept us here (at least for the time being) is the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concerts on the Square. Every Wednesday evening (Thursday is the rain date) for six weeks starting in late June through the first part of August, the WCO performs an outdoor concert on the lawn of the Wisconsin State Capitol. The concerts are often called “The Biggest Picnic of the Summer” as upwards of 15-20 thousand people attend each of the concerts. The concert goers spread out blankets on the Capitol lawn or sit on chairs in the blocked off streets, break out the wine and cheese and enjoy an evening listening to great music. And it’s free! Although, donations and sponsorships are solicited to support the concert series.
Maestro Andrew Sewell conducts the orchestra under a specially constructed canopy. For a price, concert goers can purchase a table and a nice meal up close to the orchestra. The speaker system is excellent so the music can be heard all around the Capitol.
One of our favorite concerts is the one held closest to July 4th when there is a medley of patriotic songs such as the armed forces medley recognizing current and former service members and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as the finale. There was a time when the National Guard actually shot off a cannon (blanks of course!) during the appropriate spot in the music. Not sure what they use now but it still is loud! Here’s a photo of a concert goer with their stars and stripes balloon.
While the concerts are about the music and meeting up with friends and family, the people watching is special. We usually take reading material to peruse during the playing of the music, it is also fun to watch folks promenade around the Capitol, some searching for their group while others are there to be seen. Both fascinating. For many attendees, this is the only time they experience classical music, although the Maestro does include some popular music to appeal to all interests.
Ok, I can make some assumptions why this sign is perched on the Capitol lawn. Maybe it was because people were talking in a dull roar when the music was playing! Or there is a security purpose to the sign. Makes me wonder if drone pilots would actually see or heed the sign.
While many concert goers bring their own food and drink, great food is available for sale by many local establishments. There are also youth and adult beverages for sale, can’t go anywhere in Wisconsin where beer isn’t available, even church picnics! One of the most popular food choices is the ice cream stand, often with a long line waiting for a treat especially on those hot, humid evenings.
So if you happen to be in Madison during the summer in the middle of the week, don’t miss the Concerts on the Square. Here are some photos of the location, the Wisconsin State Capitol in the center of the city.
Hope you enjoyed your visit to the Concerts on the Square (sans music!).
Until next week, take care and stay safe,