Fort Worth — For his last Fourth of July weekend celebration with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and many in the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, were decked out in old glory’s red, white and blue. He set the tone of celebrating our independence by acknowledging that, “I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now if it weren’t for this great country.”
An audacious opening number, Charles Ives’ Variations on “America” written when he was 17 years old had all the awkwardness and youthful ambition of a composer feeling his way into a new prospect. Did he take pride in labeling himself as a disruptor by writing in the “wrong notes on purpose” style prescient of much 20th-century composing?
“Hoe Down” from Rodeo by Aaron Copland painted the western landscape of purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. Copland translated more than wide open spaces into his harmonies, syncopations and orchestrations. He made musical our destiny of ambition; manifest in the possibility of big skies.
Soprano Corrie Donovan, a horned frog from Panther City, came out to serenade the full crowd with the traditional Shenandoah and George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.
Her mature and fresh tone gracefully balanced a serious classical approach with casual ease. Just the right symmetry for an event like Concerts in the Gardens.
Each of the armed forces was shown musical respect by the playing of each’s theme song and the encouragement of thankful applause for those service people in the audience. A fitting gesture reflecting America’s biggest exports: our arts and our armies.
After intermission, the brass of the FWSO gained proportional volume to the strings while playing Summon the Heroes by John Williams. He is no doubt a darling of both Hollywood and the Pentagon.
Donovan appeared again this time reciting the tragically relevant poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Followed by a warm God Bless America it was a poignant call followed by a whoop and holler audience response. A rare occurrence when the huddled masses from the lawns and tables stood, breathed free, and sang with her. She led the sing-along with class and passion.
Through secular songs and sacred hymns America’s proud traditions were traversed like the climate-contrasting north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. Fireworks and military marches bound together both our stars and those stripes forever.