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September Picnic At The Pops Opens Modesto Symphony Season
MSO singers
Members of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, plus the Opus Handbell Ensemble, will perform the Holiday Candlelight Concert at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Dec. 20, 2022 as part of the upcoming MSO season. Photo Contributed

The Modesto Symphony Orchestra (MSO) presents its 92nd season, kicking it off with Picnic at the Pops! This is the first time the organization has been able to present the community favorite concert since 2019. The MSO’s first concert at the Gallo Center for the Arts will be in October when they open their Classics Series with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

This year there will be four Classics concerts and each will have performances on Friday and Saturday at the Gallo Center for the Arts. In addition to the Classics Series, the MSO also offers a three-concert Pops Series conducted by the newly appointed Principal Pops Conductor, Ryan Murray.

“We are thrilled to present our 92nd season. The MSO was so eager to return to the stage last year and to perform for our community again. We are taking that momentum into our new season this fall with our exiting, ambitious, and dynamic programs created with our guest conductors,” said Caroline Nickel, President and CEO of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Association. “We are ecstatic to bring back Picnic at the Pops this September. That concert is not only a favorite of ours, but we know it’s a community favorite as well. There truly is something for everyone this season from our Classics Series with Rhapsody in Blue and Mozart’s Requiem, to the full-length movie, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert. We look forward to seeing everyone at the concert hall.”


Classics Series

Four concerts performed on both Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater at Gallo Center for the Arts. Opening the Classics Series on Oct. 21 and 22 is a program lead by guest conductor Christopher Dragon that starts with Price’s Concert Overture No. 2 and then will feature pianist Gabriela Martinez performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The evening will end with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”.

Guest conductor Nicholas Hersh will lead the MSO on Nov. 11 and 12. Hersh’s program will open with his own arrangement of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”. Then pianist George Li will be featured on Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and conclude with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5.

On Feb. 10 and 11, 2023 the MSO will feature violinist Simone Porter as she performs Barber’s lyrical and wildly virtuosic Violin Concerto with guest conductor Andrew Grams leading the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. The program will also include Brouwer’s Remembrances and conclude with Brahms’s Symphony No. 2.

The MSO will conclude its Classics Series on May 12 and 13, 2023 with a program led by guest conductor Anthony Parnther. The program will feature the MSO Chorus on the monumental piece, Mozart’s Requiem. That weekend’s program will conclude similarly to how it began with Price’s Symphony No. 3. This symphony beautifully celebrates Price’s heritage with influences from blues, jazz, ragtime, and a Juba, which is a dance style created by central Africans enslaved on plantations in the American South.


Pops Series

Three concerts on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday matinee performances at 2 p.m. for two of the concerts performed in the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Ryan Murray.

The Pops Series begins with a celebration of the Holiday Season with the ever-popular Holiday Pops concert lead by conductor Ryan Murray. The MSO will bring back Broadway’s Ashley Brown to kick off the holiday season with the MSO and MSO Chorus on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 2 p.m.

The second concert in the Pops Series will be on March 17, 2023 and will be led by Ryan Murray. Program to be announced.

The Pops Series will close with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert lead by conductor Ryan Murray. Fans will be able to experience the full movie with the MSO performing the full score live to film on June 2 and 3, 2023.


Special Community Concerts

The Modesto Symphony Orchestra will present their 26th Annual Picnic at the Pops on Sept. 10 with The Music of Elton John featuring Michael Cavanaugh and the Modesto Symphony. Grounds open at 5 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the E. & J. Gallo Winery.

MSO Chorus Director Dr. Daniel R. Afonso Jr. once again leads the Modesto Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, plus the Opus Handbell Ensemble in a special concert that has become a treasured community tradition, the Holiday Candlelight Concert at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Dec. 20.


Subscription packages and single tickets for the MSO’s 2022-23 Season are on sale now, online, by phone, and at the Gallo Center Ticket Office. Visit for full details. Gallo Center ticket office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; call 209-338-2100.