Summer Festivals: N.C. Symphony Under Starry Skies At Summerfest

Booth Amphitheatre at Cary's Regency Park is home to Summerfest ( Michael Zirkle)
Booth Amphitheatre at Cary’s Regency Park is home to N.C. Symphony Summerfest ( Michael Zirkle)
By Roy C. Dicks
Summerfest, May 25 – July 6, 2013, Cary, N.C.

For the last 28 years, the Raleigh-based North Carolina Symphony has made its summer home in neighboring Cary’s Regency Park. Since 2001, the Summerfest series has been in the lakeside Booth Amphitheatre, an architecturally pleasing facility that accommodates 7,000 in combined lawn and covered-table seating. Picnicking is encouraged and attire is casual.

William Henry Curry leads the concerts at N.C. Summerfest 2012
William Henry Curry leads the concerts  at Summerfest

The 2013 series offers eight concerts balancing classical and pops concerts. William Henry Curry, Summerfest’s artistic director and the orchestra’s resident conductor, presides over the opening concert featuring Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Sibelius’ “Finlandia.” Later in the series, Curry leads Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with heralded young Chinese-born pianist, Di Wu.

Curry also conducts the festival’s final concert offering an unusual evening of popular choral pieces (with the participation of the Concert Singers of Cary) that include works by Handel, Wagner, and Verdi. Of special interest is Curry’s repeat of his sold-out program in February of Holst’s The Planets. An HD film on a giant overhead screen showing NASA photos and videos appropriate to each movement enhances the concert.

Grant Llewellyn, music director. North Carolina Symphony
Grant Llewellyn, music director. North Carolina Symphony

North Carolina Symphony music director Grant Llewellyn takes a break from the classics by helming a night of Oscar-winning movie music. Other guest conductors are Martin Herman, for a Beatles music concert, and Matthew Troy, for the traditional July Fourth free concert.

The complete series:

May 25 – Hérold: Overture to Zampa; Vaughan Williams: English Folk Song Suite; Sibelius: “Finlandia”; & Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D. William Henry Curry conducting.

June 1 – At the Movies: A Night of Oscar-Winning Music from the James Bond films Out of Africa, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Gone With The Wind. Grant Llewellyn conducting.

Di Wu to perform Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations
Di Wu to perform Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations

June 8 – Classical Mystery Tour: Beatles’ most popular songs, with the orchestra and the Classical Mystery tour band. Martin Herman conducting.

June 15 – Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with soloist Di Wu. Curry conducting.

June 22 – Broadway Blockbusters – music from Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, and more. Curry conducting.

June 29 – Holst’s The Planets – An HD Odyssey. Curry conducting. (This is a repeat of concerts in which HD projections of NASA images (below right) were used.)

July 4 – Annual free concert with fireworks. Matthew Troy conducting.

July 6 – Classic Celebrations: Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks (excerpts); Handel: Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah; Wagner: Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin; Verdi: Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore; & Tchaikovsky: “1812 Overture.” Concert Singers of Cary. Curry conducting.

Tickets are $28-$30. For more information: 919-733-2750 or see

Roy C. Dicks has been a performing arts writer and critic for the daily Raleigh News & Observer since 1997.