"American Heroes" was the theme of the concert presented by the Salisbury Symphony at Varick Auditorium on the campus of Livingstone College. Heroes abound throughout the history of mankind, and America certainly suffers no shortage of them. Music Director David Hagy and the orchestra featured specific tributes to nine such heroes, plus paid homage to all heroes, sung and unsung.
Opening the program was John Williams' (b. 1932) "Summon the Heroes," a fanfare heavily featuring brass and winds. Following this rousing call to arms, the silken voice of Teresa Moore-Mitchell presented "America" in tribute to Marian Anderson's 1939 performance of the song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who facilitated and encouraged that courageous performance.
Burrill Phillips (1907-1988) was an American composer who wrote McGuffey's Reader, an orchestral suite based on poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" was taken from this to honor Revere and others who rode through the night to warn the townspeople of the British invasion.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was recognized by a deeply moving "Epitaph (In memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.)" by Adolphus Hailstork (born 1941), an American composer and currently Composer-in-Residence at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
In the early 1900s, American naturalist John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt lobbied the congress to legislate the authority to establish national monuments and parks. These two heroes were honored by a performance of the third movement, "Living Granite," of Symphony No. 11 "Yosemite: Journey of Light," by Robert Kyr (born 1954), one of the most prolific composers of his generation. This is a very powerful piece of music, portraying the great forces of water on the granite of Yosemite, and a fitting tribute to these great benefactors of our national park system.
The All-County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus was then called upon to honor Chief Crazy Horse by singing "We Will Return" from the opera Honor Song for Crazy Horse by American composer Kim Sherman (born 1954), and Harriet Tubman with the American Folk Song "Follow the Drinking Gourd." Both of these heroes strove to obtain and preserve freedom for their peoples. The chorus' performance was the best I have heard in its fifteen year history, a tribute to the heroic efforts of Maestro Hagy, the school music teachers, and the singers' parents.
To honor the hero in us all, Mr. Hagy chose "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland (1900-1990), a rousing work for brass and percussion, very movingly and ably played.
To close this epic program, the orchestra paid homage to perhaps the most revered of American heroes, Abraham Lincoln, by performing "A Lincoln Portrait" by Aaron Copland. The piece was narrated by the Honorable Melvin Watt (D-NC), representative of the 12th Congressional District. The narration consists of quotes of some of Lincoln's great documents, including the Gettysburg Address. Mr. Watt's stentorian voice lent great urgency and vigor to the performance. (An interesting side note: Marian Anderson narrated this piece on two occasions, 1966 and 1977, both with the Philadelphia Orchestra.)
Although billed as a Family Concert, this performance was not to be taken lightly. The music was serious and the message profound. The orchestra played superbly, the soloist and narrator were top notch, and the audience deeply moved and appreciative.