Hymns, marches and national songs

Hymns, marches and national songs

The best place to see Ashland's July Fourth fireworks display also is the best place to hear patriotic music on Independence Day. American Band College's Directors Band will present its 24th Annual July Fourth Fireworks Concert at 7 p.m. at Ashland High School's football field, 205 S. Mountain Ave.

High-school, middle-school and college band directors — between 160 and 175 of them — from more than 40 U.S. states and several foreign countries will perform symphonic music at the show. During the final half-hour of the fireworks display, the band will perform such marches by John Philip Sousa as "Stars and Stripes Forever," "National Emblem March" and "Liberty Bell March."

The band directors are in the Rogue Valley attending workshops for Sam Houston State University's American College Master Degree program. The July 4 show is one of the culminating performances. The first was presented June 25 at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford.

A highlight of this year's show at AHS will include a multimedia performance of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," complete with narration, big-screen video, choir and the full band.

It's a telling of "The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic," with narration by Tracy Wright, a middle-school bandleader from Georgia. Wright tells the tale to his grandson, played by Payton Swartout of Springfield, of how the song came to be a national hymn. "Battle Hymn" was written by Julia Ward Howe in the early 1860s, inspired by a visit to a Civil War camp in Virginia.

This performance will include music and vocals by the 160 band members, along with videos illustrating the history of "Battle Hymn" shown on two 16-foot screens.

The performance is dedicated to veterans of World War II living in the Rogue Valley. These veterans will be introduced during the opening ceremonies, and their photographs will be shown on the large screens during the final Sousa marches.

Lowell Graham, chairman of the music departments and director of orchestra activities at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Ralph Hultgrean, head of Open Conservatorium at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, will conduct the concert.

Marianne Gedigian, professor of flute at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin, will present solos from "Flight of the Bumblebee" and "La Chasse," along with theme music from "Schindler's List," which she recorded for the movie's score. Peter Boonshaft, professor of music at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., will conduct during Gedigian's performance.

Tickets cost $18, $13 for seniors 60 and older. Children 11 and younger will be admitted free and must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available at www.bandworld.org, Cripple Creek Music Co. in Ashland or at the gate.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Smaller group performances begin at 7 p.m., and the ABC concert begins at 8 p.m.

See a schedule of July Fourth celebrations on Page 13.

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