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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A musical farewell to summer

Members of the string section play music from Nielsen's

It’s official. Summer’s over.

Sure, according to the calendar the beloved season has two weeks left. But the Spokane Symphony put summer to bed Monday night with its annual Labor Day concert in Comstock Park.

The Spokane tradition drew about 6,000 friends, family members and classical music fans. Some attendees staked out places to sit as early as 7:30 a.m. and dined on stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, fruits and cheeses. They adorned their picnic areas with streamers, balloons and political campaign signs.

Others were decidedly lower key.

“Our decorations are those two,” Marjorie Simmons said, shaking her thumb at her husband, Norman Simmons, and her friend’s husband, Don Pratt.

The group dined on potato chips.

“We left our silver at home,” Don’s wife, Gail Pratt, said.

Ruth Jackson and Wilma Engstrom brought a 75-year-old picnic basket packed with a peach crisp, homemade French bread and chicken.

“This is all homemade,” Jackson said. “We didn’t go to Kentucky Fried.”

The friends were keeping each other company while Jackson’s husband is deployed to Iraq and Engstrom’s husband, a farmer, is busy with his harvest.

Mark and Sharon Bowman only brought one accessory to the concert: their dog, Sadie. Sadie jumped as the drums pounded out the first notes of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

“I think it’s a nice job on the part of the symphony to open (the concert) up to … people who might not normally go,” Mark Bowman said.

Eckart Preu, the symphony’s new music director, conducted his first Labor Day concert in Spokane.

He broke tradition by not ending the evening with the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky. Helen Hansen was upset by the news.

“Oh no! That’s awful,” she said. “Everyone marches. And I whistle.”

Preu told the audience he played tennis Monday morning in the park and saw the first attendees spreading out their blankets.

“I hope you are happy with your seats and you get your money’s worth,” he said.

The concert is free.

Preu later encouraged the audience to attend the indoor concerts at the Opera House throughout the year.

“The symphony is not only for old people. It’s not only for geeks,” he said. “The music we play down there, like we play here, is fun music.”