America is ready to celebrate freedom after more than a year of pandemic restrictions, and what better way than to enjoy patriotic music by Choral Artists of Sarasota and the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble on Independence Day?
Artistic director Joseph Holt has put together a program of rousing marches, traditional Americana tunes and lesser known works for an indoor performance at the Sarasota Opera House. Seating is limited to 525, just half the Opera House capacity, to ensure social distancing.
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The concert will open with the wind ensemble, directed by Joe Miller, performing “Hands Across the Sea,” a Sousa march that Holt said he was unfamiliar with but that seemed in keeping with the United States “reaching out to the rest of the world, and also leading the charge in getting the world vaccinated.”
The concert marks the first performance by the wind ensemble since its debut concert in November 2019, said Holt.
“The body of this group is primarily professional musicians, a lot of whom have played with military bands across the county,” said Holt, who himself was principal pianist for the United States Army Chorus in Washington, D.C., for 20 years. “I knew they were the ones to ask for 2021. A band is as American as apple pie, the standard tradition for this kind of ceremonial occasion.”
July 4 also marks the centennial of the establishment of Sarasota County, which was celebrated with a big party on Siesta Key’s Crescent Beach with a performance by the Palmetto Concert Band, said Holt. “We can’t find a copy of the program, but we’ve added things that likely would have been a part of it.”
Choral Artists will perform just with piano accompaniment in a program of familiar and not-so-familiar vocal works.
“Our standard, this is a great country, this is my country,” said Holt. “Then I’m going to depart from that to a certain extent. I’ve always felt this program ought to have a little more meat to it. I found a piece from the 1930s, ‘Ballad for Americans’ (lyrics by John La Touche, music by Earl Robinson). It’s a curious piece that harkens back to the patriotism that Americans were feeling prior to World War II. It includes language that is really appropriate to today, basically a question of, what is an American?”
“Ballad for Americans,” originally titled “The Ballad of Uncle Sam,” was recorded by singers as disparate as Paul Robeson and Bing Crosby but was not widely performed.
The concert will also include a performance of “Take Care of This House,” from the 1976 musical “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” by Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner, and a spiritual, “If I Can Help Somebody.”
Choral Artists and the wind ensemble will share the stage for the final segment of the concert, a set of traditional salutes to the armed forces, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “God Bless America,” which is, Holt said, “to my mind more of a national anthem than the National Anthem.”
Choral Artists of Sarasota. 2:30 p.m. July 4, Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave. Tickets $25-$50. 941-387-4900; choralartistssarasota.org