Sounds of symphony echo in The Grove

Francesco Lecce-Chong guides the Eugene Symphony through one of several orchestral pieces performed at Bohemia Park on July 29. He has been the music director and conductor of the Eugene Symphony since 2017. Nearly 3,000 people came out to enjoy classical pieces such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (Dukas), “Hamilton Suite” (Miranda) and “Harry’s Wonderous World” (Williams). This year marked the Eugene Symphony’s fifth year in Cottage Grove.

The sun set over Bohemia Park on Monday, July 29, to the sound of music. The Eugene Symphony, conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong, played through a number of pieces — from John Williams’ “Harry’s Wondrous World” to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Mayor Jeff Gowing even conducted a piece called “Tritsch-Tratch Polka” by Strauss Jr.

The music may have started at 7:30 p.m. but the event preparation started far earlier. The back was put on the amphitheater’s dome about a week in advance. The day of the event, set up of chairs, tables and equipment started at 8 a.m. The symphony’s own equipment — music stands, stand lights, instruments and their own chairs — arrived in rental trucks later in the afternoon.

The overall cost of the event was about $24,000, down from just over $30,000 in past years, according to Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers.

“We’re not renting the lights anymore, we’ve whittled down the number of port-a-potties we rent so we’ve just been able to whittle those costs away,” Meyers said.

The costs are covered by the City of Cottage Grove and thegenerosity of sponsors.

“They help pay for all the pieces,” Meyers said.

As part of thanks for the donations, each sponsor was offered a front row seat at tables set up in front of the amphitheater. Waters were provided, as well as a snack or two.

Seats for sponsors weren’t the only ones placed in advance. A few attendees made sure their lawn chairs were set up hours before the concert started. One woman was almost two hours early to the event to make sure she got to experience the music.

“I missed it last year and I was very upset so I came to make sure I got to it this year ... we got here at about 5:30 p.m. I was aiming for five,” said Rebecca Howell.

A few others arrived early as well to visit the ‘instrument petting zoo’ set up by the Eugene Symphony. It was an opportunity for kids and adults alike to explore different musical instruments and try them out.

Concert-goer Rebecca Noah from Eugene was excited to be in Cottage Grove for the symphony and the opportunity for her grandson to explore the instruments.

“It’s nice for kids to get introduced to all kinds of music,” said Noah. “Our grandson is in middle school and he plays the saxophone so he wanted to come to the instrument petting zoo.”

People young and old gathered in the amphitheater as the sun inched down the horizon. Meyers estimated an attendance of close to 3,000 people by the time the concert started.

Occasionally, passersby stopped to hear the music as well.

Steve Whaley, who grew up in Cottage Grove and attended the performance, mentioned how rarely he has the opportunity to listen to symphony music as a rock and roll musician. But he said he enjoys the amphitheater setting and the open-air feel. He also mentioned the importance of community.

“It’s important for me to relay to other people how important the sense of community is, especially in a smaller town because that’s how these things, events, happen,” Whaley said. “It’s common interest.”

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