Let Freedom Ring

The KSO soldiers on, perhaps stronger than it has ever beenFourth of July Spectacular Continued: A reexamination of Independence Day through the eyes of a fireworksmonger

Fourth of July Spectacular Continued:

Feature Story

by Kevin Crowe

There will be real cannons on World's Fair Park this July 4th. The cannons will be blasting during the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's performance of the 1812 Overture , that delightful piece by Tchaikovsky, which was originally written to commemorate the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. But history had something else in mind for Tchaikovsky's famous overture. Today, in a twist of fate, it's played at Fourth of July celebrations around America.

â“The meaning of Independence Day often gets lost in the hoopla surrounding the actual day,â” says Lucas Richman, who has been the music director and conductor for the KSO since 2003. â“I've been conducting Fourth of July concerts for a number of years; it's part of how an orchestra can give back and commemorate important events.â”

The performance will also include â“The Star Spangled Banner,â” â“Stars and Stripes Foreverâ” and, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World's Fair, KSO will also perform â“Chicken Dance,â” the little ditty that continues to find its way into wedding receptions, and â“Energy Express,â” which is a wild disco bit, popularized during the Fair.

â“It's pretty standard,â” says Jennifer Zan Eenam, a violinist and Knoxville native who will be making her KSO debut on July 4. â“Last year, it was really well received by people who aren't usually exposed to this kind of music very much. It's a great way and an opportunity to show people that classical can be enjoyable to listen to.â”

â“I especially like the armed-forces salute,â” adds Cathy Leach, a trumpeter who has been with the KSO since the early '80s. We ask members of the service to stand up when we play their particular tunesâ. It's a way to do something for the community, and express your own patriotism. To celebrate all the good things about this country.â”

Since Lucas Richman came to Knoxville in 2003, he has been instrumental in bringing in talent from around the globe. Before him, in the late '90s, ticket sales had fallen from a high of 2,700 to less than 1,900. Back in 2003, an MP cover story stated, â“At the end of the 2000-2001 concert season, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra seemed to be composing its own dirgeâ. The dirge was climbing in adagio toward its climactic moment.â” Thankfully that moment never came.

â“We've had great leadership since I've been here,â” Leach goes on. â“Lucas [Richman] is just a joy to play for. The community seems really supportive and appreciative of the orchestra. And that keeps us going. And there's been an effort to attract top-notch players, and that's really gratifying.

â“I've been doing it a very long time, I can't imagine not doing it. It's a great way to be involved in something that's bigger than you. To be in an orchestra is to be one cog in a big machine, a musical machine. It really allows for a lot of self expression.â”

â“We enjoy any performance when the audience is enthusiastic,â” Richman says. â“Any performance that makes it worth their while. Of course this is a very meaningful concert every year, marking an event that we too often take for granted.â”

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