Salute to Independence places MSO at 'center of community'
On Saturday, July 6, around 30,000 people are expected to gather across the grounds of Antietam National Battlefield for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s 34th annual Salute to Independence concert.
The free event features patriotic music new and old as well as one of the largest fireworks displays in the region.
Music Director Elizabeth Schulze said the Salute to Independence concert is one of the MSO’s most important performances each year.
“We reach our largest audience, but it’s more than that,” she said. “It places us at the center of the community, and we play music that is meaningful to us all as it celebrates our sense of self as Americans.”
At Salute to Independence, the MSO plays music that traditionally goes along with historic moments. The concert itself has become a tradition of celebrating “at a space that is sacred, in terms of the lives lost at the battle (of Antietam) and the ideals that were fought for on that space,” Schulze said.
“The fact that the country came together, and that the audience now celebrates together through music is quite meaningful and very important for us as an orchestra,” she said.
Throughout the year, audience members comment to Schulze that the Salute to Independence concert is a regular part of their summers.
“It is an important part of their celebration of Independence week,” she said.
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming 38th season will be Schulze’s 20th anniversary with the organization. She chose musical programming for Salute to Independence with a nod to pieces that will be presented during the 2019-2020 season, including Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” in November and Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House Overture” in October.
“Some of the music will give our audience a preview or insight into some of the music that we will be playing during the year,” she said. “We have a tribute to Harry T. Burleigh , a young African American musician in the 19th century who sang spiritual and folk songs which inspired melodic choices in Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony.’”
Dvorak used music that sounds similar to the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in that symphony, which will be featured in The American Symphony concert.
“(Dvorak) sought to emulate the sound in his memory of Burleigh singing. He chose the English horn, which kind of sounds like singing,” Schulze said.
Arranged by Jeff Tyzik, the tribute is called, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit: An Overture in Honor of H.T. Burleigh.”
The Salute to Independence also will include Diane Wittry’s “Ode to Joy Fanfare,” which will point toward the MSO’s October performance of Beethoven’s work.
“Another big milestone coming up is Beethoven’s 250th birthday,” Schulze said. “We are going to play a piece that uses material from his ninth symphony. He is one of the most important voices that keeps us performing. People love to hear Beethoven. He is essential to our tradition.”
The Salute program will include standards like the national anthem, “Maryland, My Maryland,” “Armed Forces Salute,” John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell,” and a patriotic sing-along.
“We recently incorporated saying the Pledge of Allegiance and I expect that to be a tradition going forward,” Schulze said.
The second half of the program will include Aaron Copland’s 1942 piece “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
“One time we took that away and we got so many letters from people asking us to bring it back,” Schulze said. “It was written around World War II during a really, really important time to a very important generation. It has become an iconic piece of music.”
A James Grant piece called “Tribute” will honor 9/11 and “those who perished and the first responders, the heroes,” she said.
A couple of crowd favorites are Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
“Even though the ‘1812 Overture’ was written in a different place for a different war, it has been taken over by Americans,” Schulze said. “We own it now.”
The Salute concert will showcase the talent of young singers from Hagerstown and Frederick, Md.
“This is the kind of thing I like to do in my programming,” Schulze said. “I have always been very interested in not only entertaining our audience, but in finding ways in which music of the past can be used to reflect our current yearning for heroism, our best efforts, and really showing who we are in our noble aspirations.”