Fourth of July Concerts, 2009

American Orchestras Celebrate July 4th!

Most American orchestras perform an outdoor concert during the July 4th weekend, even those orchestras that don’t have a summer season. Some concerts are as elaborate as those of the National Symphony and the Boston Pops Orchestra, who perform live for mega-thousands and on live television for even more mega-thousands. And some are local affairs performed at the city park or river-front for many hundreds of no-less-enthusiastic attendees.

Many of these concerts dip into the same repertoire, playing such staples as Morton Gould’s When Johnny Comes Marching Home (a personal favorite!), selections from an oldie Broadway show, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, etc., and – de rigeur – the 1812 Overture and Stars and Stripes Forever.

Polyphonic has decided to share a few stories and photos about these perennial orchestral summer concerts. Please send us a comment if you have photos to share from your orchestra’s July 4th celebratory concert — we’d be pleased to share them as well.

Rochester Philharmonic


Rochester Philharmonic's July 4th Concert

Photo courtesy of Walter Colley Images

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was back in town on July 4th. Celebrating both July 4th and the City of Rochester’s 175th birthday, Jeff Tyzik and the RPO performed a free concert on the Main Street Bridge to the delight of thousands of people who showed up to enjoy both the musical and celestial fireworks.

National Symphony, Washington DC

Glenn Donnellan, a violinist with the National Symphony, decided to make a violin out of a baseball bat for one of the NSO children’s concerts this past spring, to demonstrate that you can make an instrument out of most anything. So, working with the stagehands backstage at the Kennedy Center, he used their drill press to concoct his bat-violin and then he electrified it.

Glenn has made a YouTube video of himself playing the National Anthem on his bat-violin — truly an amazing experience to witness:

Yvonne Caruthers, cellist with the National Symphony, has sent us the following update on conductor Erich Kunzel:

As many of Polyphonic’s readers know, conductor Erich Kunzel received bad news from his doctors earlier this year. He’s currently receiving weekly chemotherapy for cancer of the pancreas, liver, and colon, while maintaining an active conducting schedule. Maestro Kunzel appears regularly with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducting Pops concerts, and our annual TV shows for Memorial Day and the 4th of July.

At last night’s (July 3) dress rehearsal I had a few minutes to talk with Maestro Kunzel, so I asked how he was feeling. He said he’d had a “rough night” with quite a bit of pain, but that he’s feeling well overall, and is determined to fight with everything he’s got. Then he proudly showed me the wrist band he’s wearing, a light blue band similar to the ones made popular by Lance Armstrong. He said it was given to him by “an 82 year old woman on the Board in Cincinnati.”


Erich's cancer wristband

I realize it’s not language normally printed here at Polyphonic, but it certainly expresses a sentiment that many of us share. If you’d like to do your part to support Maestro Kunzel’s battle to lick cancer, you can get one of these wristbands at the We Hate Cancer website.

We’re all looking forward to our 4th of July concert, “A Capitol 4th,” and we hope to see Maestro Kunzel later this summer (July 25) as he conducts a tribute to John Williams at Wolf Trap.

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians:

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here.