It was a beautiful, enchanted summer night when the Central Ohio Symphony performed its 37th annual July Fourth concert in Phillips Glen on the campus of the Ohio Wesleyan University to celebrate America’s freedom. It was in 1776 when the original 13 united states declared their independence from Great Britain. Once again, thousands of people were in attendance at this free community event, among them countless children eagerly awaiting the subsequent fireworks. Lightning bugs were dancing in the air, chased by restive kids.
The host of the evening was Jim Mendenhall, director of philanthropy and community engagement of United Way of Delaware County. He briefly introduced each piece of music and provided other pertinent remarks. Among other witty comments, he called OWU “the Harvard on the Olentangy.” On the program was a medley of 17 pieces of both classical and popular music, among them patriotic tunes and theme music from blockbuster movies. Music Director Jaime Morales-Matos was conducting with his usual display of energy and enthusiasm.
This year’s soloists were six members of the local Hayes Singers, the high school choir directed by Dr. Dara Gillis. The talented group consisted of Lily Ball, Riley Christopher, Natalie Edwards, Nick Hejmanowski, Camden Kilton and Evalyn Penley. All voice levels were represented (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass), resulting in beautiful sonorous harmony. They participated in a total of four pieces. Of particular note was their serene a cappella rendition (without the support of the orchestra) of “Prayer of the Children,” an anti-war song by Kurt Bestor, in the arrangement of Andrea Klouse.
The concert kicked off with two famous fanfares by Paul Dukas and Aaron Copland. The sections that followed included several patriotic songs. The Hayes Singers performed the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The “Armed Forces Salute” in the arrangement from Robert Lowden has become a treasured tradition. Veterans from the various branches of the military were invited to stand and be applauded by the audience when their respective tune was played. Of course, “America the Beautiful” was not far behind. The Symphony’s brass section sure got a good workout.
Once shunned in concerts, film music has long been accepted and embraced by orchestras around the world. Selections included themes from “Mission Impossible,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” There was also a strong nod to popular musicals, among them “CATS,” “Broadway Tonight,” and “Man of La Mancha.”
What would the July Fourth concert be without Peter Tchaikovsky’s rousing “1812 Overture”? At that time, the Russians were fighting against being invaded by Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, it is Ukraine that is fighting against Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression. The Symphony dedicated its performance of the overture to Ukraine’s desperate struggle fight for freedom and independence. John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official national march, concluded the unforgettable concert.
A special surprise was a last-minute visit by Madison Miller, recently crowned as Miss Ohio, who also participated in the Fourth of July parade earlier that day. Miller, 23, is a graduate of OWU where she studied Business and Psychology. She is a talented young lady with a bright future. Her special appearance with the Symphony on July Fourth was perfectly appropriate. She has played the piano since the tender age of four, and won her title by performing Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in B minor (K 27). She has also started a 501(c)(3) non-profit called “The Veteran Narrative” and has been a volunteer for the Honor Flights Network. Watch for her as she is getting ready to compete for the Miss America title.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a city to put on a concert of that scope. It was made possible by the generous support of sponsors such as Willow Brook Christian Communities, Mount Carmel Health Systems, Zangmeister Cancer Center, Ohio Wesleyan University, the City of Delaware, and the Ohio Arts Council. Miller’s Country Gardens provided flowers, the Kroger Company trash containers. The Kiwanis had a concession stand with food and beverages where some of the proceeds went back to the Symphony.
The Symphony is getting ready to start its 45th season this fall. The brochure is already at the printers and will be mailed out soon. In the meantime, put the Symphony’s annual trivia contest and fundraiser on your calendar. Hosted by David Hejmanowski, it will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, at The Barn at All Occasions in Waldo (6989 Delaware-Waldo Road), a short distance north of Delaware and visible from U.S. Route 23. It is easy to find. You may sign up for the event at a later date on the website, www.centralohiosymphony.org. And don’t forget that the Symphony’s office has a new physical address. It is no longer located next to the Strand Theater but at 20 W. Central Ave. instead. The phone number remains the same. Free parking is available off Franklin Street.
Local resident Thomas K. Wolber, Ph.D., taught foreign languages and literatures at Ohio Wesleyan University for over 30 years. He is now retired. Wolber has an undergraduate degree in music from a German university, plays the piano, and is passionate about classical music. His email address is [email protected].