The venue has changed, but the game is the same.
The Columbus Symphony will usher in its 29th season of Picnic With the Pops with a pair of inaugural concerts at the Columbus Commons Downtown.
Three Dog Night will open the series Friday evening with the symphony; the Temptations will join the orchestra on Saturday.
“It’s in the heart of Downtown and in the heart of an awful lot of exciting Downtown development,” said William B. Conner Jr., the symphony’s managing director and CEO. “We’re really proud to be part of that.”
Conner was talking about the renewed focus on Downtown, such as the development of the riverfront Scioto Mile parks and the creation of the Columbus Commons park and Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion stage.
“It’s a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility,” Conner said. “It will be very intimate. We’ll have huge video screens.” New describes several aspects of the Pops season.
Guest artists will perform throughout the concert. In previous concerts, the symphony had performed a first set of light classics or other music and a second set with the guest act.“More and more symphonies have moved to this,” Conner said.
Three Dog Night caught fire in the late ’60s and into the ’70s, topping the charts with Black & White, Joy to the World, M a ma Told Me (Not To Come) and producing other top-40 hits such as Celebrate, Easy To Be Hard, Eli’s Coming, An Old Fashioned Love Song, One, Never Been to Spain, Shambala and Try a Little Tenderness.
The band called it quits in 1976, but several members reunited in 1981. The group now tours actively. The Temptations are one of the iconic groups of the Motown sound that swept the country in the mid-’60s through the early ’70s.
Wearing elegant suits and performing snazzy, coordinated dance steps, the Temptations topped the charts with I Can’t Get Next to You, Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), My Girl and Pap a Was a Rollin’ Stone.
The group also made the charts with other hits, including Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today), Get Ready, (I Know) I’m Losing You, I Wish It Would Rain and Psychedelic Shack.
The move from the lawn of Chemical Abstracts Service between Upper Arlington and Ohio State University will help boost the Downtown redevelopment efforts — and might broaden the appeal of the symphony’s concerts.
“We hope to have more expanded audiences — younger, more urban,” Conner said. “In Chemical Abstracts, our neighborhood was Upper Arlington; now our neighborhood is German Village, Bexley, Italian Village, Victorian Village.
“I think we’ll get a broader audience. It’s kind of unique: You live in Downtown, Short North, German Village, you can walk to our concerts, and that’s really a good thing for us.”
Baby boomers have been the main demographic group for the summer series, but, like other arts groups, the symphony’s mantra is audience development.
“We’re trying to program for our core audience and trying hard to expand,” Conner said. “And that’s what we’ll try to do every year.”
Capacity was about 10,000 at Chemical Abstracts and will be about that number at the Columbus Commons. An apartment project along High Street slated to start in the summer will consume a slice of the space, reducing capacity to about 6,000 for future seasons, Conner said.
That could encourage booking acts for two concerts.“I think we could do a lot more Fridays and Saturdays,” Connor said.
Symphony leaders have spoken warmly about their years at Chemical Abstracts but are looking to the future. “Downtown is becoming much younger very fast,” Conner said. “The creative class lives all around that pavilion. It’s going to create a lot of positive, positive change for us.”
In the new location:
Patrons may still take food; beverages, including alcohol; coolers; and seating. Vendors will sell food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages.
Parking is available in the underground garage beneath Columbus Commons (enter from S. 3rd Street) and in the three-story garage just south of the commons, with entrances on E. Rich and E. Main streets. Parking is $5.
Single seats at tables can be purchased in any quantity for the first time, for $40 to $50 a seat. “You can look at the catering menu; you can go to the bar and buy beer and wine,” Conner said. “ You can avoid the grass if you want to, or you can picnic on the lawn. It lets people do what they want.” Seating at tables of eight or 10 near the stage costs $320 to $850. Catering is available. Call 614-228-8600 for both single-seat and group tables.
Toilets will be at the southeast corner of the commons, near S. 3rd and E. Rich streets.
Traffic updates will be broadcast starting at 6 p.m. concert evenings on WSNY (97.4 FM).
Bicycles can be locked at bike racks at the park.
The price of adult tickets at the gate has increased by $5. Advance tickets cost $23; call 614-228-8600, visit www.picnicwiththepops.com or visit the Ohio Theatre box office, 39 E. State. St. Discount tickets cost $20 at central Ohio Kroger store Ticketmaster locations. Tickets for ages 3 to 14 cost $8 in advance and at the gate. Children younger than 3 will be admitted free.
One option exists for the budget-conscious, Conner said: “If you want to stand on the sidewalk, you can listen for free.”