“I just wanted people to come and enjoy it. That was the purpose.”

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

I’ve listened to the Colorado Symphony play in Boettcher Concert Hall, the Philadelphia Orchestra perform at the American Academy of Music, and I’ve enjoyed the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Center – but I’ve never heard a more professional or endearing performance than the one recently performed by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra on an outdoor stage flanked by cornfields.

Likewise, I’ve seen plenty of fireworks in my day – displays of all sizes, shapes, and colors and even a few emotional outbursts that could qualify as entertaining “fireworks,” too – but I’ve never witnessed a more splendid fireworks exhibit than the one hosted by the Gialamas family on Aug. 10 at Concert in the Park.

The stage area was set on the grounds behind 1200 John Q. Hammons Drive. The young performers under the direction of James Smith.

Even given the concert sponsorships sold (and there were plenty), the acknowledged givers could not have covered all the costs of the annual Concert in the Park this year, heralded by many loyal repeaters as “the best of the best.” The fireworks alone had to have cost a small fortune.

“I did underwrite it,” George Gialamas admitted later that evening. “We spent a lot of our own money, it’s true. But I wanted people to be able to experience something spectacular, and I wanted it to be free to the public. I wanted people and families to take a night off and really enjoy themselves.”

The symphony, conducted by music director James Smith, deserved the standing ovation it inspired. The music was traditionally challenging, and soloists Maggie Schenk (flute), Paul Sekulski (violin), and Megan Whip (violin) shook off any performance jitters to stand before a capacity crowd and deliver truly poetic renditions of their scores.

The sky is alight, but no, it’s not even the finale yet! The clustering of fireworks elicited loud crowd approval.

Schenk, 18, is a home-schooled high school senior and an eight-year member of WYSO. Whip is a junior at Oregon High School and has played the violin for 13 years. Sekulski, 17, is a junior at Madison West High School who began playing the violin with the Suzuki Strings of Madison. He joined WYSO in 2005. Currently, WYSO annually serves about 380 young people representing 80 schools in more than 40 Wisconsin communities via three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program.

The raffle tickets sold during the event were to help offset costs of a planned 2012 tour to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest for the group. (Donations are still welcome.)

Kevin and I enjoyed the experience with Donna and David Gray (pictured here), Joe and Kathy Chase, and Tammy Rozek. Sharing a good time with friends was what the evening was all about.

The fact that it was a youth orchestra was of no consequence to its mastery of music composed by Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Massenet, Sibelius, Nielsen, and Lizst. The music offered a beautiful backdrop to perfect weather, food, wine, and conversation. Then, during the fireworks exhibit, everyone seated at my table exclaimed that there was one particular variety of boom-boom-fizz that we’d never seen before – a colorful, low-bursting, circling dealie that I can’t explain here and couldn’t seem to catch on film. The crowd spontaneously applauded and cheered every time that particular whizbang boomed. How exciting to see a new firework!

And every time we thought we’d just seen the finale, another round of fireworks ensued. The program lasted a solid 30 minutes, with no noticeable delay between launches. The company that did it (I didn’t think to ask George that question) gave, according to testimonials of the group of people surrounding me (and I concur), the absolute best fireworks display we’d ever seen (I know I said it, but it bears repeating) – including any Fourth of July show.

Bravo, Gialamas Company and sponsors, and a special thanks to Candy Gialamas for the vision to create the Concert in the Park series, and to George for putting his heart (and wallet) into making it all she could imagine.

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