The DSO celebrates with music, fireworks at Greenfield Village
Greenfield Village will echo with boom and bombast Wednesday through Saturday, when the Detroit Symphony Orchestra returns to its Fourth of July home, cannon at the ready, for the "27th Annual Salute to America."
Did we mention fireworks?
Of course there will be fireworks every night, streaking the sky to the martial beat of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" -- shortly after the DSO wows the crowd with that staple of American patriotic celebration, the "1812 Overture."
Leading the DSO will be guest conductor Sameer Patel, 36, the Michigan-born associate conductor for the San Diego Symphony who finds the link connecting Tchaikovsky's overture with the U.S. holiday charmingly unlikely.
"The music is about a war between Russia and France," he said, alluding to the Napoleonic Wars, "and somehow it got absorbed into the Fourth of July tradition."
Patel was pretty sure Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler had something to do with it -- and indeed, the Pops included the work for the first time ever in their 1974 Independence Day concert.
It was hit, and the tradition exploded across the country. Sixteen cannon blasts, after all, are hard to beat.
There will be lots of other songs with patriotic underpinnings to look forward to in "Salute to America," including Aaron Copland's "Variations on a Shaker Melody" from "Appalachian Spring," LeRoy Anderson's "Summer Skies," and a salute to the Armed Forces.
Two John Williams movie scores will be thrown into the mix -- the "Midway March" from the 1976 film "Midway," and "The People's House" from Stephen Spielberg's 2012 "Lincoln."
The evening will kick off with a fife-and-drum parade at about 7 p.m. After that, the Jazz Ambassadors of The United States Army Field Band will warm things up before the DSO starts playing at 8:30 p.m.
For Patel, a child of immigrants who grew up in Port Huron and did his undergraduate and master's at the University of Michigan, it's a homecoming with particular meaning. "The DSO was the first, real professional orchestra I ever heard," he said. "I fell in love with it as a kid."
Once he decided he wanted to be a conductor, Patel started attending the orchestra's rehearsals. On finishing his master's in 2007, he worked for a while with the DSO's Civic Youth Orchestras.
But how do conductors really feel about outdoor concerts?
Patel, who's also associate conductor for Idaho's Sun Valley Music Festival, is nuts about them.
"When I was with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic," he said, "we did a lot of outdoor concerts in the summer. They've always been a part of my story as a conductor, and people love them."
In another plus, outdoor concerts invariably attract a somewhat different audience from the concert hall, which also gives Patel the chance to convert some newbies to classical music.
"Absolutely," he said. "At the end of the day, you’re there hoping the music touches and moves them."
Patel will be staying in Midtown during the concerts, and also can't wait to update his view of the city.
"Detroit has always been remarkable, with its history and beautiful architecture," he said, "but every time I come back, I’m just floored at how the city is changing."
Greenfield Village, 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn
6 p.m. Wed.-Sat: gates open
8:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat: Detroit Symphony Orchestra starts performing
$27.25 - adult; $20.50 - kids 5-11 (free Fri. & Sat. with adult)
$32 - adult; $24 - kids 5-11 (free Fri. & Sat. with adult)