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Symphony in the Gardens

Delightful Music Outdoors

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger  | Photos by Don Perry

Picnic blankets and folding chairs dotted the South Lawn of The Dixon Gallery & Gardens as the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) took the stage at the far end of the lawn. The occasion was the annual Symphony in the Gardens event. To the delight of the crowd, the MSO performed Big Band music. The opening song was a tune with our city’s name in the title, “The Memphis Blues.” Standards like “Funny Valentine,” “String of Pearls,” “Stardust,” and “Begin the Beguine” followed. Other legendary songs from Memphis, like “Green Onions” and “Hound Dog” were also part of the program and proved to be true crowd pleasers. 

As over 1,450 concert-goers enjoyed food, wine, and beer during the evening’s performance, they were also supporting both the symphony and The Dixon. Originally the private residence of Margaret and Hugo Dixon, the site was opened to the public more than 40 years ago. Today the home is a museum with a series of galleries devoted to displaying The Dixon’s permanent collection, as well as hosting traveling exhibits. 

“The surrounding 17-acre wooded site, created in an American-style garden reminiscent of English landscape parks and French and Italian garden styles, contains a horticultural complex that includes a library, meeting space, potting hub, greenhouses, and a glass conservatory,” explained Chantal Drake, Director of Communications for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. “Our annual Symphony in the Gardens program is one way that we reach out to invite the community to visit our grounds. Although The Dixon is a public institution, we receive no city, state or federal funding. We are supported by the Hugo Dixon Foundation, Dixon Gallery and Gardens Endowment Fund and by individual and corporate donors.”

This year’s Symphony in the Gardens marked the 34th year that the Memphis Symphony Orchestra has performed at The Dixon. 

“For Symphony in the Gardens, Big Band Leader Scott Moore, principal trumpet for MSO, led other musicians. In terms of community outreach, MSO performs three times more concerts for the public at venues like The Dixon than at the Cannon Center,” said Lindsey Stanfill, Development Manager at MSO. “Each year we reach over 15,000 students with our school performances and some of our musicians serve as coaches and mentors for students. Additionally, we have community performances at area libraries, community centers, and other public venues.” 

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