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News: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra returning to Piedmont Park with free concerts in May

The ASO returns to Piedmont Park for two concerts on the Promenade. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Piedmont Park Promenade

The concerts will take place in the Promenade, and tickets are required. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

After a six-year absence, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will return to Piedmont Park for two free concerts in the Promenade area next month.

Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles will lead the first concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, and ASO Music Director Robert Spano will conduct the second at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 23. Both performances will take place in the Promenade area in the northwestern part of the park, adjacent to the parking deck behind the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

ASO concerts in Piedmont Park have been a longtime Atlanta tradition. The first took place June 17, 1976, with then-Music Director Robert Shaw conducting. The orchestra subsequently played 109 concerts in the park through 2007, when they were suspended because of the severe drought that hit Georgia for two years and fears of irreparable damage to the park and its lawns.

Some free summer “parks” concerts were moved to other locations around the city, and even the Woodruff Arts Center plaza between the High Museum of Art and the building that houses Symphony Hall and the Alliance Theatre. Then something else suddenly dried up: the funding to underwrite the popular concerts.

“Not a month has gone by without someone asking me about having the orchestra return to Piedmont Park,” said ASO President and Chief Executive Officer Stanley Romanstein.

The “Performance on the Promenade” concerts, squeezed into the ASO’s already tight late-season schedule, are fully funded through support from Bank of America, the Charles Loridans Foundation, the Mark and Helen Trammel Foundation, the Vasser Wooley Foundation and the city of Atlanta.

Admission will be free, but online ticket reservations are required, as the Promenade is much smaller than the vast lawns on the south side of the park, where ASO concerts were traditionally held. Access to the Promenade can also be far more controlled. And while two concerts pale by comparison with what the orchestra used to do in the park, it’s a welcome testing of the prospects for renewal on a larger scale in coming years.

Tickets for the May 17 concert will become available on Friday, May 3, at 10 a.m., and the May 23 tickets will become available on Friday, May 10, at 10 a.m. They will be available at the ASO website.

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