Sunday, July 4, 2010

Blossom Festival Band: Salute To The USA

If you're having deja vu about the post title it is because I apparently can't read ticket stubs properly: Friday's concert was An American Celebration, tonight's concert was the Salute to the USA. As is typical for this event, the printed program was a rough guide for the evening, additions are noted with underline in the program, which follows this post.

This is my fifth year at Blossom for the Fourth of July weekend, and of course this concert draws a much different demographic than the typical concert weekend. Like the majority of the audience I don't go to this concert to listen critically or necessarily discover new music, but rather I go to share a summer evening with those strangers with whom I share a common bond: Namely citizenship.

The concert has the challenge of including the "patriotic staples" to avoid committing heresy while introducing enough variety that the program doesn't become rote. The first half of the program, by that standard was adventurous, with the overture from La Mutette de Portici receiving a somewhat tepid response (and honestly, it seemed somewhat out of place--especially without any context).

John Phillip Sousa is best known for his marches, and Sousa's Under the Cuban Flag was an interesting glimpse into a lesser-heard side of the composer's work--though at first glance the title seems at odds with an American Independence Day celebration. Loras John Schissel's coments about Sousa's band's prohibition-era trip to Cuba with instruments and their cases serving as vessels to smuggle alcohol arguably showcases part of the American spirit. Anderson's Sleigh Ride was a fun insertion on a warm summer evening.

The program following intermission was much less adventuresome. It was a little disturbing that I involuntarily mouthed along the introduction to the March-Past of the United States Armed Forces...and that I don't think it has varied by so much as a beat in the past five years.

America The Beautiful was possibly my favorite piece from the program and the sounds of birds chirping and children playing on the Blossom lawn added a certain ambiance only possible in a venue like Blossom; the same sounds of children playing sadly juxtaposed with Schissel's own somber composition Memorials, dedicated to those who have given their lives for our country.

It was interesting to contrast the Blossom Festival Band rendition of The 1812 Overture tonight to Friday's Cleveland Orchestra presentation of the same: I'm not sure I prefer one over the other, but tonight's--presented without the choral parts--seemed more familiar. I successfully suppressed my urge to jump at the sound of cannon fire, but it was amusing to watch the people in front of me, without exception, jump up and to the right in their seats. I'm still saying that it's overplayed, however.

Smith: The Star Spangled Banner
Auber: Overture to La Mutette de Portici
Sousa: Washington Post
Grainger: Molly on the Shore
Traditional: Yankee Doodle (arr. Schissel)
Sousa: Under the Cuban Flag from Cubaland Suite
Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14
Goldwin: On the Mall
Sousa: Simper Fidelis
Jager: Esprit de Corps (after the Marines' Hymn)
Schissel: Memorials
Traditional: America The Beautiful (arr. Dragon)
Traditional: March-Past of the United States Armed Forces
Tchaikovsky: Festival Overture: The Year 1812
Berlin: God Bless America
Sousa: Stars and Stripes Forever.

May your Deity bless America.



  1. I know this is random, but I have a question for you. My husband and I are new to the Cleveland area, and I was thinking that it might be a fun experience to see the fireworks at Blossom for our first 4th of July here. However, I can't figure out if it is possible to see the fireworks if we get Pavillion seats or not. Do you know? I think it would be preferable to have actual seats for the concert, although I know the lawn seating is supposed to be quite nice. But since the Pavillion obviously has a roof, logically it would be impossible to see the fireworks from there. Assuming that is true, do you know what people do who have Pavillion seats when it is time to see the fireworks? I can't imagine that people pay more for "better" seats and then have nowhere to go to see the fireworks. If you get this comment and have any insight, I would really appreciate it!

    Also, if you have any suggestions for more traditional concerts to attend at Blossom this summer, I would like to see the Orchestra perform there as well, but I can't decide what looks most interesting.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    Welcome to Cleveland! I'm a big fan of the pavilion seats myself. Usually there's a short delay between the end of the concert and the start of fireworks, so you can make your way out to the lawn or one of the plazas to watch the fireworks.

    For other concerts it's difficult to make a reccomendation; the Orchestra rarely dissappoints. One thing to be aware of is that there are a few different ensembles on the schedule: The world-famous Cleveland Orchestra plays most programs (July 23rd, for example) while the Blossom Festival Orchestra a few others.

    If you have any questions feel free to email me at l(at)lincolnincleveland(dot)com and I'd be glad to answer them. Coming from Southern California, I've found Cleveland really is a fantastic region.