That the Lexington Philharmonic's patriotic concert Friday evening will take on an air of celebration is a given. The performance is, after all, the key introductory event to local Fourth of July festivities.
While Philharmonic conductor and music director Scott Terrell more than recognizes and honors that fact, he still views the concert, for all its audience-friendly repertoire and ambience, as serious business.
"I take the Fourth, in terms of what we program and how we present ourselves, very seriously," he says. "This may be one of the only times people in the community may encounter us every year, so we want to put our best foot forward.
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"This is always a very well attended performance. There could be anywhere from five to ten thousand people there. It's an honor to be part of such a big community event."
To address that honor, Terrell — who made his debut as Philharmonic music director by conducting the orchestra at a Fourth of July concert in 2009 — has designed a program he describes as "broad." That means familiar marches and Americana-themed songs will be on board, but so will film score music, Broadway tunes and even a touch of Strauss with an especially keen Kentucky tie-in.
"Certainly there are some traditional things people like to hear in terms of repertoire," he says. "But I look at July Fourth as a broader celebration of America, whether it be through American music or American art forms or composers. Also, I think it's a good way to pay tribute to many different types of people that helped honor America, whether it be servicemen or particular historical figures. All of that sort of plays into my thinking when we do the patriotic concert.
"The other thing that's fun too, though, is bringing in some of the community assets beyond the Philharmonic. We're bringing in some folks from Madison Central High School and involving them in a couple of numbers (including James Stephenson's Sing Along, America!). We have a graduate of the UK Opera program (baritone Thomas Gunther) coming back to sing. I try to be broad in making sure the evening is cross-generational but fitting for the occasion."
Terrell also hints at the involvement of a "guest narrator," but is choosing to keep the identity under wraps until performance time.
"Well, it's kind of a big name, so I'm kind of scared to hurl it out there. They're a rather large sports figure in town, and I'll just leave it at that."
Friday night's performance will be split between two specifically themed sections. The first, titled The American Spirit, concentrates on patriotically inspired music that begins with The Star Spangled Banner before working through to Bring Him Home from Les Miserables and a segment of John Williams' score for the 2000 Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger film The Patriot.
The second half, The American Landscape, is where Terrell will put his vision of a broad Americana repertoire into practice with George Gershwin's Summertime, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Some Enchanted Evening, another Williams score (the overture to the 1972 John Wayne film The Cowboys) and even a nod to Joseph Strauss, whose 1870 work Jockey Polka has more recently been associated with horse racing. Terrell said the Philharmonic's performance of the piece doubles as a nod to the upcoming Breeders' Cup.
"One of the great things about the American sound is how places are defined by music," Terrell says. "I look at The Cowboys overture as John Williams' evocation of the wild, wild west — this very grand, panoramic sound that he creates of the American West. It's certainly a very beautiful, very exciting view of an era gone by.
"I think it's important to honor our past but at the same time realize that the American ideal, certainly the musical ideal, is ongoing. That's the idea: a program that offers a little bit of fun while certainly being respectful of the holiday. We want to be as broad as we can with music that I think has great generational appeal."