Lancaster Festival Orchestra Celebrates 30th Anniversary with The Beach Boys

Dinner alfresco, followed by music under the stars, topped off with spectacular fireworks – that’s a Lancaster Festival Orchestra concert. For me, it marks the height of summer. According to Artistic Director, Gary Sheldon, most of the orchestra musicians have been returning for the annual event for 20 of its 30 years in existence. July 29th’s concert featured The Beach Boys. One might imagine that this group has grown too geriatric to bring a crowd of fans to their feet, singing and clapping. Not so. The Beach Boys gave a wonderful performance, sometimes rollicking, sometimes nostalgic and sweet, and the crowd loved it.

The always impressive Lancaster Festival Orchestra opened the concert and played a series of pieces that echoed the anniversary theme, including Ian Ivanovici’s Anniversary Waltz and John Williams’ The Olympic Spirit. The festival is held on the grounds of Ohio University, Lancaster Branch, and the orchestra honored the venue with a rousing performance of Mark Phillips’ Stand up and Swing, based on the OU fight song, Stand Up and Cheer. The audience clearly enjoyed it, responding with enthusiastic applause.

Beach balls bounced atop the crowd as the sun dipped behind the trees and darkness settled over the concert grounds. When night had truly arrived, front man Mike Love asked the audience to light up the flashlight apps on their phones. The fans complied, and illuminated the entire area with points of light that swayed to the melody of “Surfer Girl.”

Two giant screens, visible even to those seated on the hill behind the table area, provided a video montage throughout the show. The onstage performance was interspersed with clips from the band’s early years and beach scenes that evoked the theme of the evening, “Surfin’ Safari,” one of their earliest hits. Tables were decorated in sun and surf style, and many people wore leis and Hawaiian shirts, lending a tropical mood to the Midwestern evening.

The evening’s performance concluded with the Lancaster Festival Orchestra playing rousing patriotic marches to accompany an impressive fusillade of fireworks. Summer, at its best.