Sydney Festival | 02 Mar, 2022
Your handy guide to the big event
The elevator pitchThousands of people picnicking in the park whilst Benjamin Northey conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra through a program of well-loved orchestral music from the classical canon and popular film scores. It's a rare opportunity to see world-class musicians for zero dollars, and a delightful way to catch up with friends and family. Also, fireworks!
What’s different this year?Most notably, the timing. Foiled by COVID-19 in January, this beloved annual event was put on ice for a few weeks until it could be held more safely. The new date for your diaries is Saturday the 26th of March. Unlike last year, Sydney Symphony Under the Stars is back to its normal operations as an un-ticketed event, without seats or gates. Still free, of course.
About the programEnhance the music with a little context, keep the pack entertained while you wait for nightfall, or impress a date – whatever your motivation, it pays to know a little about what you’ll be hearing. Let's take a walk through the works...
Hold onto your chip-on-a-sticks! Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Carnival Overture cranks the night straight into 5th gear with its boisterous energy and racing pace intended to depict the liveliness and festivity of a carnival setting. This work premiered in Prague in 1892 conducted by Dvorak himself, and is part of a trio of overtures titled Nature, Life and Love, which was intended to portray varying experiences of the human soul.
Next it's a change of pace with the traditional Chinese folk song Jasmine Flower or ‘Mo Li Hua’, arranged by Li. Beloved and reinterpreted right across China since the 18th century, its sound is so sweet you can almost smell the Jasmine at dusk. Staying on this light and gentle path, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major floats in next, because what would a night of popular classics be without Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! This celebrated Austrian composer of the 18th century was a virtuoso in every sense, having begun his first complex compositions when most kids were still eating grass and boogers – at the tender age of five.
The absorbing Alexander Rag by Uzbekistan-born, Australian-based composer Elena Kats-Chernin follows. Composed in 1998, Alexander Rag was written for Kats-Chernin's partner of the same name, and, though tantalisingly short, is full of passion and feeling. Get the popcorn out next, because we’re heading to the movies with a rousing John Williams medley. Even you don't know the name, you’ll know the music; Williams has scored some of the most popular films of the 20th century. You'll soon pick out aural slices of ET, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, bonus points if you can describe the action in the corresponding scenes.
And before you know it, the finale is here – Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. This fiery composition is a strong contender for the most famous and frequently played pieces of classical music of all time, and took Beethoven almost four years to complete between 1804 and 1808. During those years, Beethoven was suffering from debilitating and steadily worsening hearing loss, whilst his home of Vienna was bombarded in the Napoleonic Wars. Though born of strife, it is an expression of triumph, and an influential work in western music to this day.
How to get there
Sydney Symphony Under the Stars takes place in Parramatta Park at a location called The Crescent, an outdoor event space formed around a bend of Parramatta River creating a natural amphitheatre.
Information on how to get to there by car or public transport can be found here.
If you are driving, the best places to park are the public parking stations on Hunter Street. Parramatta Park will be closed to car traffic from 3.00pm, including the car park onsite.
When to arriveWhenever you please, but coming early is always recommend to ensure you can find space for your crew, and settle into the evening a little before the music starts. The performance begins at 7pm, and the food trucks are open from 5pm. There are no gates, so you are welcome to come earlier than this.
What to bringThere is no seating provided, so bring whatever it is you need to be comfortable on the grass for an evening: picnic blankets, beanbags, low-level folding chairs are welcome, but no upright camping chairs please – keep those bums near the ground so your neighbour can see too.
You are also welcome to bring your own food and drink, including alcohol. Drinking cups must not be made of glass.
Short of a blizzard or sharknado, Sydney Symphony Under the Stars is likely to go ahead in all weather.
So come prepared with rain jackets and warm clothing. Umbrellas are allowed; tents are not.
Food and drinkCatering trucks will crank into gear from 5pm, with both food and drinks available. Here’s a taste of tastiness coming your way, with more to come...
Emmys Gourmet Gozleme