For Christopher Wilkins, Music Director of Boston’s fabled Landmarks Orchestra, performing tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hatch Shell, the only thing he consults as frequently as his music scores is the weather app on his iPhone.
Concertgoers have to consider the temperature and the likelihood of rain when deciding whether to make it an evening of music under the stars.
So do the conductor and the audio team.
Most people don’t realize just how much time and energy goes into preparing a concert in the great outdoors, especially in the Northeast, where changeable weather is always a factor.
“Blue skies and high 80s,” Wilkins says with relief, looking at the forecast for tonight’s event. “We can deal with bad weather and we can deal with good weather. The real challenge is when it’s in-between, and we have to make a last-minute decision about whether we can perform or not.
“One time, we had to stop in mid-performance. That’s New England weather for you. That was no fun.”
When you perform outside, everything’s different. Each of the individual orchestra members uses a separate microphone, creating an unenviable task of complex mixing for the sound engineer.
“The trumpets and the drums always bleed into the other instrument sections,” Wilkins sighs. “Not easy.”
In addition, he notes, the Hatch Shell was built for the late, great Arthur Fiedler, the legendary conductor of the Boston Pops.
When Fiedler conducted, it was not possible to use microphones and a sound system, so the Hatch Shell is built for a strictly acoustic performance.
This was great for the people sitting close to the concert, but what about for the folks in the back?
“Our audio system allows 5,000 or 6,000 people at a time to enjoy great music,” Wilkins says. “But because the shell was built in the acoustic era, it makes the job of miking the musicians even that much harder.”
In other words, everything that one instrument plays gets picked up by the microphones on all the other instruments, because of the design of the Hatch Shell.
“It can be a headache,” Wilkins admits.
Tonight’s concert features music emphasizing “love, summer, and the environment,” Wilkins says.
“Either the pieces have summer as their themes, or they’re all about love, or in the case of one of our pieces, preserving nature.
“In other words, we think it’s the perfect music for a summer evening.”
Attendees can spread out a blanket for free or rent chairs for $5 if they would rather keep directly off the grass.
“People do a little of everything during our concerts,” Wilkins laughs. “They sit, they eat, they drink, they run, they bike, they fish, and they ride by on their motorcycles, which isn’t so great. Traffic noises weren’t a consideration when the Hatch Shell was constructed.
“The main thing is that there are a lot of different ways to enjoy the evening, and that’s what we aim for.”
Tonight’s program features works by Giuseppe Verdi, Samuel Barber, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Fredrick Delius, Edward Elgar, and Bostonian Peggy Stuart Coolidge.
Coolidge’s three-minute orchestral work, composed in 1971, The Blue Planet, has been the theme of the World Wildlife Fund.
If you’re going, don’t forget the sunblock. To Wilkins’ relief, the forecast still calls for relentlessly sunny skies.
Landmarks Orchestra, tonight, Hatch Shell, Boston’s Back Bay, 7:00 pm.
For further information, www.landmarksorchestra.com