Billings Symphony Orchestra set to perform for 10,000 people on Sunday at Pioneer Park

Barring rain clouds and thunderstorms, organizers are expecting 10,000 people to hear the 80-piece orchestra perform for free during the 44th annual Symphony in the Park. As some cities across the country struggle to keep their symphonies alive, the Billings Symphony Orchestra is preparing for its biggest crowd of the year Sunday at Pioneer Park.

Director Anne Harrigan said the concert will highlight three local vocalists as well as music from “Star Wars” and patriotic favorites. She selected vocalists who have performed with the BSO before, including Amy Logan, Bret Weston and Kristy Montgomery.

“We’re also doing several pieces to pay tribute to the Olympics including ‘Summon the Heroes’ by John Williams and ‘I go to Rio,'” Harrigan said.

The Billings concert opens at 4 p.m. with food concessions, including catfish from Bayou City Catfish, pie from Singing Mountain, and ice cream from Wilcoxson’s. The instrument petting zoo also begins at 4, followed by the Billings Community Band performance at 5 p.m., more instrument tryouts at 6 and young conductor’s contest at 6:45 p.m. The symphony concert begins at 7 p.m. with Montgomery’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” with the VFW Post 6774 and the Marine Corps League.

Montgomery said the most important part of performing the National Anthem is getting all the words right. She has performed it many times before, but nerves can get the best of any performer, especially in front of such a huge crowd.

“I just zone everything out and look at the crowd in general, not individual people,” Montgomery said. “I’ve performed the National Anthem in front of a lot of people in Houston, and at the NILE and PBR rodeos.”

In the second half of the concert, the orchestra will perform four songs from “Star Wars” and the “William Tell Overture.” Then Weston and Logan pair up for Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” with concert master Randy Tracy on violin. Montgomery returns with Lee Greenwood’s”God Bless the U.S.A.”

“Kristy is amazing,” Harrigan said.

Logan, who also plays clarinet in the orchestra, will transition from the front of the orchestra to her chair in the band shell right after the duet with Weston.

“It’s a cool collaboration, and Anne thought the song needed some harmonies,” Logan said.

Weston and Logan have both performed with the BSO several times. Weston is gearing up for an encore performance with most of the “Forever Plaid” cast at Billings Studio Theatre for “Plaid Tidings” in the fall. He said music brings him joy.

“I just count myself lucky to live in Billings where there is a good population of music-based people. There are so many talented musicians here, and the community really pulls together to do great things. When many cities have lost their orchestra, we’ve still got a symphony orchestra.”