Grand Rapids Symphony Rocks the Hills of Cannonsburg at 2018 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops

The sweet, symphonic sounds of summer in West Michigan return to Cannonsburg Ski Area with theGrand Rapids Pops’ D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops in July and August.

The 24th annual summer of picnicking at the pops will be back with orchestral blockbusters and fireworks, with the biggest hits of 1980s featuring Starship’s Mickey Thomas, and with a musical mashup of Beethoven and Coldplay.

Special events include high-voltage merengue and mambo from Tito Puente Jr., and the quirky songs of the one-and-only Ben Folds, back in Grand Rapids by popular demand.

It all happens at Cannonsburg under a brand-new orchestra shell, thanks to the support of the Nancy & Doug Slade Dynamic Donor Advised Fund of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

The Grand Rapids Symphony opens the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops on July 12-13 with Classical Fireworks and The 3 Maestros featuring not one, not two, but three conductors. Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt, and Associate Conductor John Varineau pass the baton and share podium for an evening of patriotic melodies and much more.

“It’s a chance to make the event something that’s ‘All in the Family’ with an Americana theme,” Bernhardt said. “I’m not sure that it’s legal to have three conductors on one program, but we’re going for it!”

The Grand Rapids Pops’ three-concert series, held on Thursdays and Fridays in July, opens with Classical Fireworks and The 3 Maestros at 8 p.m., 30 minutes later than then rest of the season’s concerts to allow for the pyrotechnic display following Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at the end of the show.

The D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops remembers the days of George Michael and Wham, R.E.M. and INXS with 80s Rewind! on July 19-20 at 7:30 p.m.

Hosted by Mickey Thomas, lead singer of Starship, the show includes such classic 1980s hits as the Scorpions’ Rock You Like A Hurricane, Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, and U2’s Still Haven’t Found WhatI’m Looking For.

“It’s a hit-driven rock ‘n’ roll show, and everyone – of a certain age – will know every song and probably all the lyrics, too,” Bernhardt said. “With our special guest, Mickey Thomas from Starship, it’ll be even more fun.”

The Grand Rapids Pops pits classical music and pop/rock against each other in a mashup titled Beethoven vs. Coldplay on July 26-27 at 7:30 p.m.

Guest conductor Steve Hackman leads the Grand Rapids Symphony plus special guest singers in highlights from Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 juxtaposed against songs such as Paradise, 42and Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by the British rock band.

Capping off the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops are two one-night only special events in August, one with the sultry salsa rhythms of Tito Puente Jr. on Thursday, August 2, and the other with the smart-alecky songs and whiz-kid piano playing of Ben Folds on Friday, August 3.

Puente Jr. carries on the musical tradition of his father, the seven-time Grammy Award winning percussionist and band leader Tito Puente Sr. Folds, who appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony in DeVos Hall in October 2014, led the Ben Folds Five to a series of platinum recordings and an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1998. He’s since served as a judge on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” and currently is artistic adviser to the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

“Ben is an astounding musician and a brilliant singer-songwriter. I love his music, and I love working with him,” Bernhardt said of Folds. “I love his audiences, and I love the way he relates to his fans. I’m thrilled he’s coming back to Grand Rapids.”

Click here for full lineup and ticket information.

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