Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blossom Festival Band: Stars and Stripes and Sousa Forever

(The full program can be found at the end of this post)

This weekend marked the beginning of the Cleveland Orchestra's Blossom Festival season -- this year, with three unique concerts. Though the contents of both the Saturday and Sunday concerts intrigued me, for the sixth year (of six years living in Cleveland) I marked my 4th of July with Loras John Schissel and the Blossom Festival Band... on the 4th of July itself.

This year my girlfriend joined me: We had two of the best box seats in the house, while her mother, father, and brother opted to enjoy the concert from the lawn. Another first, we picnicked on the lawn before the concert -- enjoying a wonderful early summer evening. Although featuring Mr. Schissel's trademark of abandoning the printed program in favor of frequent additions and rearrangements, the concert otherwise seemed fresh--there, were, of course, the patriotic staples, but everything in between seemed new, certainly not rote.

The wildlife was as lively as the program, with birds happily chirping away throughout (though, as my date an I both noted for Fucik's Florentine March, not necessarily on tempo); in the program opener, Thomas Knox's American Pageant there's a passage that instrumentally sings God Shed His Grace on Thee" as those notes were played, a bird dove from the pavilion rafters and gracefully zipped about the pavilion-- I couldn't help but to think of Tinkerbell.

Everything seemed a bit more lively than years past; the crowd certainly seemed a bit louder and more enthusiastic, although, it seemed like the number of people standing for their branch's music in the March-Past of the United States has thinned from year to year. It was difficult to choose a favorite from the program... Meditation: The Light Eternal had a beautiful sound and a touching story; Galop from Moskva Cheryomushki was fast and full of energy; Tone Poem: America was beautifully graceful at points -- and included chains at others.

Unannounced, the piece just before Field Artillery was quite amusing with musicians leaving the stage -- and occasionally hurling objects at Mr. Schissel -- while the piece was in progress... One musician even made good show at attempting to carry on a cell phone call, while shushing the conductor.

Following the concert my girlfriend and I rejoined her family where -- for the first time, actually -- we stayed to watch an incredible fireworks show, with the percussive explosions reverberating out of the pavilion for added impact.

Happy (belated) Independence Day

The Program (In order played; not as printed)
Knox: American Pageant
Sousa: Pathfinder of Panama
Sousa: Mosaic: Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory
Sousa: Power and Glory
Fucik: Florentine March: La Rosa di Toscana
Shostakovitch: Gallop from Moskva Cheryomushki
Sousa: Dauntless Battalion
Sousa: Tone Poem: America
Sousa: Field Artilerary
Sousa: Washington Post
Sousa: New York Hippodrome
Swearingen: Meditation: The Light Eternal (The Legend of the four Chaplains)
Traditional: March-Past of the United States Armed Forces
Tchaikovsky: Overture: The Year 1812
Berlin: God Bless America
Sousa: Stars and Stripes Forever


  1. After getting your advice, my husband I attend the July 4th performance and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also had excellent box seats - just stage right of center in the first row. Although I was anxious about how it would work to watch the concert from the pavilion and then move outside for the fireworks, it was no problem at all, and I'm glad we chose the seats we did.

    My favorite Sousa is always the Washington Post march (due to loving the musical Assassins...), but we really enjoyed the whole concert. My husband can be critical and he was thrilled with the Blossom Festival Band. I can't wait to go back soon to see the CSO.

    Thanks for your insight and for writing a blog that highlights the many wonderful things Cleveland has to offer.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the concert! It sounds like you were seated near where my girlfriend and I were (just left of center, first row).

    The Cleveland Orchestra at both Blossom and Severance are well worth the return visit when you have the opportunity!

    Thanks for reading!