DECATUR — Great music in a beautiful setting proved a popular way to serenade the end of summer Monday evening.
The Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra Labor Day Pops Concert drew a crowd of hundreds to the Nelson Park Amphitheater.
Free to anyone who made the time to sit down and listen for an hour, some perched on the concrete tiers of the amphitheater while most chose to furnish themselves with lawn chair seating arrangements.
Other audience members opted for a floating platform and moored their boats just offshore in Lake Decatur where a fresh north breeze blew the music out to them.
The orchestral menu awaiting their ears went with the notion that variety is the spice of life and included everything from Duke Ellington arrangements to themes from the James Bond movies.
One interesting new variation this year was an appearance from the Millikin University Concert Youth Chorale who sang “In Dreams” from the movie adaptation of “Lord of the Rings.”
Michael Luxner, the music director and conductor for Labor Day Pops, said his audience expects a rich musical experience and that’s what he aims to deliver.
“Really, the whole point of this concert is that people who don’t normally go to concerts can just come out and get comfortable and enjoy it,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about how they are dressed, they don’t have to worry about their kids running around and making a noise.”
This was the 15th concert and it’s never cancelled, despite the problems of having more than 60 musicians struggling with everything from rain-sodden conditions to wind gusts and sweltering humidity over the long years.
Many regular listeners say the music shines through whatever the weather and nicely underscores summer’s swansong.
“You are here looking at the water and the band is so tremendous, it just makes you relax,” said Amos Ratcliff, who celebrated his 52nd birthday Sunday. “Anybody can just come together out here and enjoy it, it’s wonderful.”
Luxner says a few of the music choices anticipate the orchestra’s upcoming concert season but sometimes what they play takes on a significance no one could imagine.
“Ironically, in 2001, we had just played a Sinatra medley and the big tune at the end was “New York, New York,” he recalled. “We had no idea, of course, that the very next week would be the events of Sept. 11.”