A huge crowd, estimated by KSO officials at more than 40,000, filled both the south and north lawns at World’s Fair Park for the 34th annual Pilot Flying J Independence Day Concert and fireworks show Wednesday evening.
Sitting in lawn chairs and sprawled on blankets, everyone was clearly in a mood for celebration. There was robust singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” to begin the concert and nearly everyone applauded the current military and veterans as they stood when the “Armed Services Salute” honored each of the service groups.
With many of the regular KSO musicians away playing at summer music festivals, or just taking much needed breaks, about a third of the musicians were the KSO’s regular professional substitutes.
The music was a blend of patriotic music always heard at these concerts and popular selections from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” Richard Rodgers’ “South Pacific” and other music.
With the casual mood of the concert, people ate food from the vendors around the edge of the South Lawn where the concert stage was. On the North Lawn, children played in the fountain.
During the performance of Calvin Custer’s arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “A Medley for Orchestra,” Andrew MacDonald and his wife, Jacqueline Whittemore, danced with their daughter, Margarette. It was the family’s first venture to the 4th celebration concert, now that Margarette is old enough to enjoy the event.
Gary and Christine Huber brought their children, Felicity and William, to their first holiday concert. The Hubers moved to Knoxville two and a half years ago. “We’ve watched the concert and the fireworks show on television since we moved here,” Christine Huber said. “But we were too intimidated to come.”
This concert wraps up a good year for the KSO. The orchestra has settled into new music director and conductor Aram Demirjian’s conducting style and expanding programming. Under Demirjian’s leadership, the orchestra made its fourth appearance at Big Ears.
In August and September, the orchestra will combine forces with Clarence Brown Theatre for 17 performances of Leonard Bernstein’s operetta “Candide” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the great American composer’s birth.
In March 2020, the KSO has been invited to join three other American orchestras to perform at the third SHIFT Festival of American Orchestras at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.