Monday, July 16 , 2018, 3:34 am | Fair 65º


Symphony’s Musical Fireworks Sure to Be Spectacular

The Santa Barbara Symphony's holiday concert in the Sunken Gardens is a worthy tradition.

There are many kinds of traditions at work in the world, and there is no legally binding definition of the term.

Diane Wittry will conduct the Santa Barbara Symphony during its Fourth of July concert.

There is the wannabe kind that awards itself the name and hopes that people won’t notice that the word “tradition” has been applied to something as a way of suggesting that it has stood the test of public approval over a significant period of time, even if it hasn’t. Then there is the kind that waits to call itself a “tradition” until it has been up and running long enough for the public to already have done so, spontaneously, out of respect and affection.

A perfect example of the latter kind of tradition is the free patriotic concert offered by the Santa Barbara Symphony each year in the Sunken Gardens of the county courthouse, on the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776).

These concerts began in the latter years of the music directorship of Varujan Kojian (1985-93) and are a solidly established Santa Barbara tradition.

After a pre-concert at 4 p.m. by Peter Feldman and the bluegrass band The Very Lonesome Boys, this year’s concert will begin at its traditional time of 5 p.m.

The concert will be conducted by Diane Wittry, music director of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra (for it is also a strong Santa Barbara tradition to turn over the podium to remarkable women conductors).

It was Wittry’s inspiration to have her program celebrate U.S. geography — since history and geography are twin disciplines — and the concert has been given the motto “Travel Across America,” with selected pieces representing various cities and regions across the land: John Williams’ Liberty Fanfare (from Rocky), New York, New York, St. Louis Blues, Mardi Gras from Mississippi and I left my Heart in San Francisco.

The concert also will feature performances by the Santa Barbara Symphony Choral Society under music director Jo Anne Wasserman. It will join the symphony in singing such American classics as This Land is Your Land, God Bless the USA, An American Hymn and the Armed Forces Salute. (If you think it odd that a Woody Guthrie song should be on this bill, remember that the greatest song of Revolutionary France, La Marseillaise, was written in support of the monarchy of Louis XVI.)

Tchaikovsky’s rousing 1812 Overture, American only by adoption, will close the concert with a bang.

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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