PAC hosts first Fresh Air Fest of the season

The Florence Symphony Strings performed “Scandinavia” for the first Fresh Air Fest event from 6-7 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the BB&T Amphitheatre outside the FMU Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The event was free and open to the public and guests were required to wear masks. Socially distanced seating was provided, but guests could bring their own chairs and sit on the lawn near the amphitheathre, if they wished. Attendance was limited to 150 people, but there was a sizable turnout of listeners for this open air event.

This Fresh Air Fest was the first of the season, and the first of three that the Florence Symphony Orchestra is performing in. All of the pieces they performed were written by Scandavian composers. They opened with “Symphony in G” composed by Johan Helmich Roman and closed with “Holberg Suite” by Edvard Grieg. This is the first performance that the 73 year old orchestra has had since February of this year.

Due to COVID-19, the orchestra has been split up into three separate sections. The woodwinds and the brass sections have performances scheduled for 4 p.m. on Oct. 25 and 4 p.m on Nov. 2. Both are being held at the PAC’s BB&T Amphitheatre.

The Fresh Air Fests were created when both the Florence Symphony Orchestra and the PAC wanted to find a way to bring live music back to downtown Florence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community was one of the driving factors in creating the Fresh Air Fests. The minds behind the event wanted to give back to the community and help it recover some from the pandemic.

Terry Roberts, professor of music and director of instrumental activities, was instrumental in bringing the Fresh Air Fests to life.

“Live music, that’s a big part of downtown,” said Roberts. “Has always been since it was revitalized.”

They also wanted to give the FMU student ensembles, as well as other local groups, a chance to perform.

“Our ensembles aren’t able really to perform like they normally do,” Roberts said. “Rehearsal is very difficult also, so we’re sort of giving everyone a chance to do something.”

There will be a wide variety of musical genres performed, as well as both vocal and instrumental performances. There will also be choral, classical and jazz performances among others.

Two FMU groups, the FMU Jazz Combo and the FMU Voice and Choir, will perform at the Fresh Air Fests.

It is not known yet if the Fresh Air Fests will continue through the spring, but there are discussions going on about making them a more regular event.

“If we’re not allowed to actually have indoor performances, we’ll certainly do something,” Roberts said.

The Masterworks Choir will be performing at the next Fresh Air Fest. They will be singing both classics and Broadway favorites. Weather permitting, there will be six more Fresh Air Fests this fall.

The next Fresh Air Fest will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the BB&T Amphitheatre at the PAC.