40 years in Plymouth: an outdoor tradition

 Hilde Performance Center, Plymouth

Summer in Minnesota is a time for beloved outdoor traditions, and this July the Minnesota Orchestra again offers a favorite of many: Symphony for the Cities, the free concert series that brings the Orchestra to several open-air venues in and around the Twin Cities area. Across four decades, the ensemble has performed more than 250 outdoor summer concerts at parks, plazas, bandshells and businesses. The communities of Hudson, Excelsior, Winona and Plymouth have long since made Symphony for the Cities concerts an annual tradition.

Plymouth stands out as a special partner—on July 3 the city marks the 40th anniversary of its Music in Plymouth series, which was founded especially to bring the Orchestra to its community each summer. The idea was the brainchild of then-Mayor Al Hilde, Jr., and businessman Curtis Carlson, who envisioned an event that would help create a sense of identity for the fledgeling suburb. Ever since, a volunteer board, the Plymouth Civic League, has worked year-round to plan and raise funds for the event, drawing donations from individuals, families and businesses alike.

For the past ten years, the Orchestra's annual Plymouth concert has been held at the Hilde Performance Center, a venue whose construction was funded by a donation from Al Hilde, Jr., and his wife Jayne, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra's Board of Directors. The Orchestra's performance itself is the centerpiece of an evening filled with diverse entertainment, children's activities and, as a grand finale, a fireworks display—all free to the public. The crowd, which numbers 15,000, is the largest live audience for any single concert of the Orchestra's season.

Comments Barbara Willis, president of the Plymouth Civic League: "We're pleased and honored to have partnered with the incomparable Minnesota Orchestra for 40 consecutive years to present Music in Plymouth. People who attended the event as children now bring their families to hear the Orchestra perform. We hope that will continue for generations to come."

A full schedule of the July 3 Plymouth event is available at musicinplymouth.org. The Orchestra will perform additional Symphony for the Cities concerts in Excelsior on July 4, Winona on July 5 and Hudson on July 8, all led by Associate Conductor Courtney Lewis. In a special offering this year, the July 3 Plymouth concert will be recorded by Minnesota Public Radio and broadcast on July 4 at 8 p.m.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Showcase, the Minnesota Orchestra magazine.