Symphony Under the Stars celebrates Ocala arts group

The Symphony Under the Stars concert, a Mother’s Day performance featuring the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, returns on the Ocala Golf Club on Sunday. (File photo)

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:37 p.m.

History’s afoot at this weekend’s Symphony Under the Stars in Ocala.


Symphony Under the Stars

What: Annual open-air Mother’s Day performance by the Ocala Symphony Orchestra
When: 7 p.m. Sunday; gates open at 6 p.m.
Where: Ocala Golf Club, 3130 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala
Cost: $15, $5 for ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and younger
Info: 867-0355 or

To mark the ruby or 40-year anniversary of its host, Fine Arts for Ocala, the annual open-air Mother’s Day concert will showcase the Ocala Symphony Orchestra performing a playlist pulled from four decades of popular music.

“We’re going to have a big 40th anniversary celebration in September. But this kind of kicks off the celebration,” says new FAFO president Sara Dassance.

Appropriately, the theme of this year’s concert is “Forty Years of FAFO.”

Symphony Under the Stars is one of Ocala’s most popular traditions. It attracts thousands of locals to the Ocala Golf Club. The orchestra performs under a tent, as families spread out on blankets and lawn chairs. It is as much symphony concert as it is social gathering.

Gates open 6 p.m. Sunday; the concert starts an hour later. Food, ice cream and beverages — alcoholic and non — will be available for purchase for those who opt not to bring their own. Art from FAFO’s annual autumn arts festival will be raffled off during the evening.

“Some of the West Port High School drama students will be dressed in period clothing dating back to the ’70s to help with the raffle,” Dassance says.

OSO’s program will include a tribute to Henry Mancini, a nine-minute “Star Trek” suite and music from Billy Joel, Lionel Ritchie, The Beatles, Whitney Houston, the musical “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“It’s sort of a hodge-podge of cool orchestral pops,” says conductor Matt Wardell. “Some of these we’ve done before. It’s the kind of music everyone will know, be familiar with.”

With roots stretching well beyond two decades, Symphony Under the Stars has evolved into a large, community party — not to mention a popular Mother’s Day gift. This is a symphony concert that prompts potlucks and picnic baskets. Children run and play catch on the greenways. Some folks just stretch out and savor the music. Many adults enjoy chilled wine and beer with the potato salad and snacks.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” Dassance says. As many as 4,000 people typically show up, she adds.

One last tip: After the closing fireworks — “Oh, please let it rain beforehand so we can have the fireworks,” Dassance says — it can get dark in areas around the golf course. So FAFO suggests packing a flashlight with the picnic gear.

History teaches us that lesson, too.

Rick Allen can be reached at

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