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As the second concert in its 40th season the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra honored our American veterans with a concert in Varick Auditorium on the campus of Livingstone College. Following the presentation of a plaque to Livingstone College honoring the founding of the orchestra by its then-president, Dr. Samuel E. Duncan, Jr., the concert opened with Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland (1900-90). This work was written in 1942 at the request of Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Goossens had commissioned at total of eighteen fanfares to open each of his concerts in both World Wars I and II. Only this work remains in the standard repertoire. Written for brass and percussion, the players provided a thrilling fanfare to set the mood for the entire concert.
Next came an Armed Forces Salute, arranged by Bob Lowden (1920-99), which featured the themes of each of the military services: “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” (Army), “Semper Paratus” (Coast Guard), “Marine’s Hymn,” “The U.S. Air Force,” and “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy). Here, the full orchestra provided a series of rousing marches with flair and gusto.
To remember the American Civil War, the orchestra presented American Salute, variations on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” by Morton Gould (1913-96). The theme is first presented by an English horn solo, soulfully played by Christine Miller. What makes this work even more poignant is the fact that Salisbury was the site of a Civil War prison from which many Union soldiers never did return home.
“Over There” was written by George M. Cohan (1878-1942) in 1917 to stir up enlistments into the army to fight in Europe in World War I. Cohan was later awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Franklin Roosevelt in honor of his contributions to World War I morale. The orchestra’s performance was enthusiastic and uplifting, in keeping with the song’s original intention.
World War II was truly a global war. An early television documentary series, “Victory at Sea,” used U.S. Navy film footage of the war in the Pacific. Richard Rodgers (1902-79), the noted musical theater composer, was asked to provide music as a backdrop for the narration. For this he composed a series of works that have been brought together into an orchestral suite, played with fervor or tenderness as the score required.
Jack and Jill at Bunker Hill, by Greensboro composer Russell Peck (b.1945), is an action-packed story of the American Revolution, which is historically correct, with the possible exception of the presence of Jack and Jill. Peck’s music is full of rhythm, percussion, jazz, and blues that appeals to children and adults alike. Karl Hales, who recently retired as Chair of the Communication Department of Catawba College in Salisbury, provided a strong and entertaining narration, full of passion and delight, in collaboration with the orchestra, which played with zest and enthusiasm.
The Salisbury Symphony has traditionally sought to involve Rowan County school children in its family concert. For this concert, some third, fourth, and fifth graders were selected to interview American veterans who had served from the time of World War II up to the present. These interviews were presented visually with captioned photographs while the orchestra played “Elegy in memory of those lost September 11, 2001” by David Ott (b.1947). The presentation concluded with Taps, played by solo trumpet, with two echoing trumpets, providing some very stirring and emotional moments.
The program concluded with a concert version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” arranged by John Williams (b.1935).
The Salisbury Symphony, under the direction of David Hagy, is to be congratulated, once again, for presenting a fine concert with appeal to audiences of all ages, and a great tribute to America’s veterans. That they were able to perform at such a high level with just one rehearsal is a tribute to the caliber of their professionalism.