Fresh off a lightning beginning to the season, the Savannah Philharmonic is roaring back with their largest event of the year on Sunday with the latest edition of "Picnic in the Park."
This year's event is asking attendees to "Color Your World with Music" and to help them accomplish this is guest conductor Gene Chang, a friend and colleague of newly-appointed Music and Artistic Director Designate Keitaro Harada. The former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chang comes highly-accomplished and what the Philharmonic staff sees as the perfect pick to take over the event. "Picnic in the Park is music for everybody," Savannah Philharmonic executive director Terri O'Neill said. "You really want a personality that can shine in that environment but also (one) that knows a repertoire that speaks to a large and diverse crowd. Gene comes to us by recommendation of Keitaro but certainly has all the qualifications and qualities to be a showman in that venue."Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and food newsletters
That venue is the largest the Phil sees each year — Forsyth Park. O'Neill said each year, Picnic in the Park is not only the biggest event for their organization, but for all of performing arts in Savannah.
"I feel like it's the Super Bowl of performing arts for the city. It's definitely the biggest thing that our organization does, but when you have 15 to 18,000 people crammed in one quarter of the park, it (becomes) the Super Bowl of the performing arts in Savannah, Georgia."
Returning this year are the digital visual effects that wowed audiences in last year's show as well as the 3rd Infantry Division, which will include a performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture from the U.S. Army Band along with the U.S. Color Guard and Salute Battalion. "I think it is important for the 3rd Infantry Division to bring that entire salute battery — the cannons, the support teams, the transportation that set up the execution. That is a big thing. It's a really big thing. Most of the people sitting there and hear the cannons go off with the 1812 Overture, it's very emotional and powerful," O'Neill said.
This year's show promises as much fun as in year's past as other guests include the Savannah Arts Academy Orchestra, Savannah High School and the Esther F. Garrison School for the Arts: Garrison Voices to kick off the festivities at 3 p.m. followed by the main show, which will include a performance by American Traditions Vocal Competition silver medalist and VOICE Festival singer, Emily Yocum Black. "It's really an opportunity for us as an organization to give the gift of music to an entire city and beyond; and using the opportunity to have camaraderie and celebrate everything that's good about our city — the history, the education, the military and all of the partnerships and collaborations that makes this event special and possible.
We, as an organization, pride ourselves and are really honored to be able to do it."