GR Symphony brings back 1st soloist for Picnic Pops

Kent County

CANNON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops is back with the original soloist who helped kick off the popular summertime tradition 25 years ago.

Guest pianist Rich Ridenour says he will play the same piece her performed for Picnic Pops in July 1995: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

“It’s special because it was an instant hit when Gershwin wrote it, and he wrote it in just three weeks because he forgot about the commission from Paul Whiteman. So, it’s just an amazing assemblage of just you know great moments in music,” said Rich Ridenour.

His wife, Stacy Ridenour was the vice president and general manager of Grand Rapids Symphony when Picnic Pops started.

“At that time, in the early 90s, there was a very vibrant arts and entertainment season during the year, but in the summer there really was nothing going on. And the symphony was looking for ways to expand the audience and do programming that was really relevant so in the early 90s we committed that in 1995, we would launch an outdoor series,” she explained.

“Once were found Cannonsburg with the slope and the creek, everything came together,” Stacy Ridenour added.

She says 2,000 people showed up on opening night, and the concert series is still a major draw for everyone, including families.

“It is fun. You can bring your own picnics, and the price point is very accessible, it gives something for everybody. You can have your fancy tables or sit up on the lawn and enjoy great music of all types,” Stacy Ridenour said.

Picnic Pops begins Thursday night with the Patriotic Pops concert featuring fireworks during the “1812 Overture.”

“That’s a tradition that goes way back to the beginning, to the very first day,” said Stacy Ridenour.

  • Picnic Pops runs July 11 through Aug. 2 and includes the following performances:
  • July 11: Classical Fireworks: Salute to America
  • July 18: Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles
  • July 25: Dancing in the Street: The Music of Motown featuring Broadway star Shayna Steele
  • Aug. 2: Nashville: The Songwriters. Their Stories. The Symphony.

Tickets start at $20 for adults and $5 for children ages 2-18. Kids younger than 2 are free. For more information, visit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website.

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