Music in the Park

Glen Oak Amphitheatre
by Jonathan Wright

The Glen Oak Park Amphitheatre is one of the area’s crown jewels—a beautiful outdoor setting for entertainment of all kinds.

The word amphitheatre is derived from the ancient Greek amphi-, meaning “around” or “on both sides,” and théatron, meaning “place for viewing.”

Ancient amphitheatres were vast performance spaces surrounded by ascending seating, used for gladiatorial contests and other public spectacles, much like today’s open-air sports stadiums. According to Wikipedia, “the remains of some 230 amphitheatres have been located in widely scattered areas of the Roman Empire.” The Colosseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is the most famous—and largest—such structure built by the Romans.

Contemporary amphitheatres are typically bowl-shaped, with the audience on just one side, more akin to the theatres of ancient Greece. They are usually outdoor venues, with a level performance area surrounded by upward sloping ground for spectators, creating a natural “bowl” which amplifies sound, making an ideal site for musical or theatrical performances.

“Parks were meant for bands and music…”

“Ask long-time Peorians some of their favorite memories of the public parks, and nearly all mention the band concerts. This outdoor summer entertainment was as natural as the parks themselves.”

The Grandest Views, A History of the Peoria Park District, Monica Vest Wheeler, 1994

 

The Glen Oak Amphitheater is well known for hosting weekly concerts by the Peoria Municipal Band every summer, among many other events. In the 1970s, famous acts like the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac and Peoria native Dan Fogelberg played its grounds.

On September 13th, Live Music Peoria will present the Fall Music Festival at Glen Oak Park, featuring rock legend John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, Disney artist Ralph’s World and the Peoria Acoustic All Stars, performing A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg. For more information, visit livemusicpeoria.org.

A Natural Jewel

The Glen Oak Park Amphitheatre includes three acres of land adjacent to a fresh-water lagoon. Seating for 1,000 persons is provided on 350 six-foot park benches, and an additional 6,000 persons can be accommodated on the surrounding grass.

The Amphitheatre was developed and constructed through an agreement between the Peoria Park District and the Peoria Municipal Band Commission. In 1960, the site formerly known as Rose Island, adjacent to the Glen Oak Park Lagoon, was filled in by the Park District to make room for a free-form concrete bandshell and stage. It replaced the original Glen Oak bandstand, which was constructed in 1896.

The bandshell is a trapezoidal concrete structure at the rear of the Amphitheatre. The stage is raised three feet from the ground and has three levels rising in eight-inch increments. A concrete sound reflector overhangs one-third of the stage at a 45 degree angle. The structure was named the Fred Huber Memorial Bandshell in honor of the former conductor’s years of service to the band. a&s

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