Playing classical music outdoors can be something of an adventure, said Brian Geddes, principal bassoon player for the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.
Among the challenges are the temperature, the wind and the fact that the players can’t hear one another as well.
“In a concert hall, you are constantly listening to everyone around you,” said Geddes of Olympia. “Outside, you have to do a little more guessing and a little more trusting.
“And inside, we don’t have things like gusts of wind that blow music off stands.”
But the orchestra braves the Western Washington summer — whether that’s chilly and gray or, like last year, 97 degrees — to present its annual Concert at the Capitol, a free event that invites the community not just to listen, but to bring along the kids, dogs, bikes and picnic baskets.
“People come with their deck chairs or their blankets,” said conductor Huw Edwards. “Some people come with their pets, and some stay on the edge with bicycles.”
The concert offers about 75 minutes of music selected from last season’s World Tour Revisited Season.
“It’s a kickoff to the new season, but it’s also a chance for us to do an encore performance of some of the highlights of the past year,” Edwards said.
“We just do shorter pieces and movements,” he said. “We try to keep it flowing and have a nice variety and play lots of pieces that people will recognize.”
Included on the program are works by Tchaikovsky, Johann Strauss, Rossini and “some Sousa, of course,” Edwards said.
The concert generally attracts 3,000-4,000 people, including quite a few who aren’t regular symphony goers.
“It’s a lot of fun to play for so many people,” Geddes said.
“I’m 32, and I have friends my age who don’t normally go to the symphony, but they’ll come out to this concert,” he said. “It’s free, and it’s a change of pace. It’s an outdoor community event. Our normal demographic skews older than that.”
While the concert isn’t long, attending can be a major event, Edwards said.
“It’s really an all-day affair,” he said. “People get there early. ... Kids come up and look at the instruments.”
Capitol Campus is a comfortable setting for introducing younger children to the symphony. They can run around and play, and if they make noise, well, so do passing cars, birds and, at least once, the sirens of three fire trucks passing during a quiet movement.
“For a lot of kids, I would guess this is probably their first exposure to a symphony orchestra,” Geddes said. “This is probably my favorite concert of the year because of the different audience.”
Concert at the Capitol
What: The Olympia Symphony Orchestra invites picnicking at the annual outdoor concert
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Near the Tivoli Fountain off Capitol Way on the west Capitol Campus
More information: 360-753-0074 or www.olympiasymphony.com