Good Music, Great Times at the Lancaster Festival

Gary Sheldon, Artistic Director of the Lancaster Festival(Photo: Lancaster Festival)
Gary Sheldon, Artistic Director of the Lancaster Festival(Photo: Lancaster Festival)

In 1984, Christian Badea and the Columbus Symphony presented a Picnic and Pops concert at the outdoor auditorium of Ohio University-Lancaster.  From that humble beginning has sprung one of Central Ohio’s premier Summer celebrations — The Lancaster Festival.

When the CSO began it’s own Picnic with the Pops series, which opened in 1988, festival planners hired Maestro Gary Sheldon to establish the Lancaster Festival Orchestra.  Through it all, Maestro Sheldon has made the orchestra the musical centerpiece of the 10-day midsummer celebration.

There are so many great venues and so many wonderful performances, I can’t begin to list them all.  You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

One of the best things about the Lancaster Festival is that it is more than just a festival that takes place in Lancaster, there are numerous venues throughout the city which host events.  Some require tickets, but many are free and open to the public.

Some, such as the piano workshop on Saturday morning, July 20, with Brazilian pianist Francisco Renno…and the Community Orchestra performance on the evening of July 23 also offer the chance to participate.  (details at

The orchestra kicks things off musically on July 18th with Opening Night: Festival Fan Fare.  A 7 p.m. Brass Fanfare in front of St. Mary Church, the Lancaster Festival Orchestra moves indoors for the 8 p.m. performance.  Their guest is pianist Francisco Renno.  An event which looks particularly appealing, both musically and gastronomically, is Just Desserts.

There are two performances on Thursday, July 25, where the audience can enjoy delicious desserts and coffee after each concert!  J.S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata, a tale about the new European fad of the day, highlights an entertaining program.

The jazzy Cakewalk ballet of Gottschalk and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite offer tasty musical complements to the delectable desserts served, all included in one ticket price.

I spoke with Maestro Gary Sheldon, who is the Artistic Director for the festival.

Watch the Lancaster Festival Orch prepare for the 25th Anniversary season in 2012