The finale to the concert couldn’t have been grander – Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” with its familiar “da-da-da-dum” beginning and thrilling crescendo into the last movement. The final triumphant chord of the piece brought the audience to its feet, with applause and shouts of “Bravo!” filling St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theatre.
A large contingent of Freedom Plaza residents, part of that jubilant audience, retained their excitement all the way home, their busses buzzing with laudatory comments.
The May 22 performance brought an end to the 2013-2014 Coffee Concert Series of the Florida Orchestra, a succession of eight monthly concerts, all featuring free coffee and doughnuts prior to the performance. An informative pre-performance lecture about the music to be performed was an additional bonus, one which Freedom Plaza concert-goers appreciated immensely.
Attending these concerts has been a part of the enrichment programs of Freedom Plaza for more than a decade. Participation has grown each year and now requires three Freedom Plaza passenger busses to accommodate the number.
To facilitate ticketing such a large group, William Abbey, group manager of the orchestra, comes to Freedom Plaza for an annual Coffee Concert sign-up session. Coffee and doughnuts are served, of course. That’s when residents can renew their concert subscriptions or subscribe initially, which guarantees preferred seating selection for the coming season. They also may sign up on the Freedom Plaza bus list, guaranteeing them transportation to the concerts. Such a session was held recently and the busses already are filled for the 2014-2015 season, with a wait-list for tickets that might become available for any concert.
One may wonder why these Coffee Concerts are so popular, not only with Freedom Plaza residents but with senior music lovers throughout the Tampa Bay area. There are multiple reasons – the morning rather than evening time frame is generally favored by retirees; the variety of music offered is appealing to diverse musical tastes; the pre-concert lectures add interest; and the doughnuts definitely sweeten the experience. Plus, the Florida Orchestra is simply a great company of outstanding musicians.
Peggy Burgess is an Associate of Freedom Plaza and columnist for The Sun.