Picnic in the Park typically brings many thousands of area residents together in Forsyth Park, but the big community gathering has been short-circuited this year by the pandemic.


To keep the tradition going and to keep the music playing, the Savannah Philharmonic has partnered with WTOC for a special Picnic in the Park broadcast from 5 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.


The pre-recorded concert from Trustees’ Garden will include "uplifting selections and fanfare," according to the Philharmonic website.


This year’s event has been dubbed Halloween Mask-A-Rade.


Music & Artistic Director Keitaro Harada and the musicians will be wearing costumes, and the Philharmonic’s Facebook page will be hosting a musician costume contest.


The nonprofit’s Instagram will hold a contest using the hashtag #PIPMask. Folks will be encouraged to share photos of their decorated homes and costumed kids.


Details about both contests can be found on the Philharmonic’s website.


Harada said at a recent conference that the Philharmonic and other major arts organizations have been faced with two choices this year.


They could simply wait on the sidelines until large concerts can be held again or "figure it out, come out winning and make sure that we stay with our mission to serve our community with music," Harada said.


Fortunately for all of us, Harada and the Savannah Philharmonic team have decided to engage the community as much as possible. Harada said at the press conference that this year’s Picnic in the Park has the potential to reach more households than the live event in Forsyth Park.


The broadcast will include a guest appearance by vocalist Hannah Zazzaro, who has a long list of impressive credits.


Picnic in the Park will also feature guest conductor Richard Kessler leading the musicians through a rendition of "Proud Mary." Kessler won the chance to participate via auction at a fundraiser.


Kessler said at the press conference that one of his dreams is for Plant Riverside to help Savannah become better known as a "music city." The new district features free live music every day, and a new music venue will be opening in summer 2021.


The Savannah Philharmonic has other programs in the works.


The next performances in the series Phil the Squares with Music are slated for 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 in Chippewa Square. Attendees can bring chairs or blankets to sit in the square or enjoy the shows via Facebook live.


#ThrowBackThursday concerts will continue to be shared for one week on the Savannah Philharmonic’s YouTube channel.


Harada was also recently spotlighted by NHK World for his efforts to adapt to the pandemic, especially through the daily talk show "Music Today."


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Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News. He can be reached via citytalksavannah@gmail.com and @billdawers on Twitter.