The calendar is set for music and picnic blankets on Capitol Square: This year’s weekly Concerts on the Square series will run June 26 through July 31, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra announced Sunday.

The free concerts attract tens of thousands of people to the state Capitol grounds in midsummer for a 7 p.m. performance each Wednesday.

But this year the orchestra will encourage more audience members to reserve a seat at a table for a catered dinner near the orchestra — the dinner proceeds help pay production costs — or to join the Friends of the WCO membership program with a $5 monthly donation.

Friends of the WCO “is a sustainable, philanthropic program,” said orchestra CEO Joe Loehnis. “You’ll see a lot of our promotions this summer to become a Friend of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra so that we can keep doing these free concert series well into the future.”

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Producing Concerts on the Square costs about $1.1 million every year, “more than a third of our budget,” Loehnis said. “We have generous sponsors and table patrons, but with the 250,000 people who show up we continually try to find ways to help them feel connected, to have some kind of ownership” of the event.

The season will open June 26 with guest artists Tiempo Libre, a Cuban ensemble that last performed with the WCO in 2012. The group was scheduled to open the 40th season of Concerts on the Square, celebrated in 2023, but that concert was canceled due to smoke from Canadian wildfires that posed an outdoor health hazard regionwide.

“We’ve always been able to do a concert on the rain date” set for each performance, said music director Andrew Sewell, who is marking his 25th season with the WCO this year. “But in this case, Mother Nature had more to say about it. So in the interest of everybody’s health, we had to cancel it.”

In the non-summer months, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is also known for presenting a “Masterworks” series of concerts in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center for the Arts. The next is “Revelation” on March 22, featuring the world premiere of Symphony No. 14, “Revelation,” by WCO composer-in-residence Bill Banfield. Madison Youth Choirs, Festival Choir of Madison and the Edgewood College Chamber Singers, plus vocal soloists Angela Brown, Ben Johnson and William Volmar, will join the professional musicians of the orchestra for the performance. Donors who join Friends of the WCO can get two free tickets to “Revelation” for signing up, according to the WCO at

The orchestra this month is also releasing a new album, “Harmony in Black,” part of a five-album, five-year “Musical Landscapes in Color” project to record the works of diverse contemporary composers. And the WCO has partnered with the business school at UW-Whitewater to produce a report about the economic impact of Concerts on the Square, to be released in April.

“It really will show how much this event affects the local economy, the workforce and small businesses that are the beneficiaries of the concert series,” Loehnis said.

This year’s Concerts on the Square lineup:

June 26: “Tiempo Libre 2.0,” will feature the three-time Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean music group Tiempo Libre.

July 3: “Fanfare on the Square” will be a celebration of Independence Day with the 1812 Overture, “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the Armed Forces Salute, plus works by Grammy-nominated composers Patrice Rushen and Michael Abels.

July 10: “In Nature’s Realm” will feature music by Glazunov and Grieg, plus songs by the Grammy-winning Native American activist and flutist Bill Miller, and a performance by 17-year-old violinist Jane Story, winner of the WCO’s Young Artist Concerto Competition.

July 17: “Trumpet Squared” will feature WCO principal trumpet Matthew Onstad pairing up with the internationally recognized trumpeter Andrew Balio, a Madison native, for works by Haydn and Vivaldi, plus Mozart’s Prague symphony and a contemporary work by Joan Tower, with guest conductor Emanuele Andrizzi.

July 25: “On the Town” will feature Bach, Bernstein and Mozart with WCO Concertmaster Suzanne Beia performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. Kanopy Dance Company will perform “ConFluence: A Prelude” by local composer Michael Bell and “Summer in the City” set to Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town.”

July 31: To mark the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” pianist John Novacek joins the WCO to perform that work plus more by Gershwin. A work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Michael Abels and John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” are also on the program.

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