Planning an annual July Fourth concert for Choral Artists of Sarasota is a bit like preparing music for a holiday program. There are certain songs that you just have to include every year mixed in with other pieces that introduce audiences to music they don’t know.
Joseph Holt is mixing the new and the familiar for the annual “American Fanfare” program that will be presented at 4:30 p.m. July 4 in the Sarasota Opera House. It’s the 17th year for this holiday tradition that has grown in popularity over the years.
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It outgrew its start at the Historic Asolo Theater and eventually moved to the First Methodist Church in downtown Sarasota. “We started to sell out there so the Opera House became the choice because it is the largest space that we have available,” Holt said.
Though Independence Day activities tend to be focused outdoors, with picnics and fireworks, Holt said the singers perform indoors to protect everyone from the heat, humidity and concerns about passing thunderstorms.
“I wish we had an outdoor location, some kind of protected amphitheater, where we could do it outdoors,” he said. The afternoon timing means audiences are out of the theater in time for meals and the fireworks show at the Sarasota Bayfront (or to get out of downtown before the crowds arrive).
Among the traditions that will continue again this year are favorites like “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” and a salute to the Armed Forces, which includes recognition of those in the audience who served in the military. The salute will be performed by the Choral Artists with the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble, a new group that got started in 2018 and had its debut performance in 2019. It is led by Joseph “Joe” Miller, who moved to Venice in 2005 after many years as a teacher and as a performer and leader of other bands.
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The wind ensemble will also play such pieces as Jerry Bilik’s “Civil War Fantasy,” John Philip Sousa’s “Fugue on Yankee Doodle,” and William Schuman’s “Chester Overture,” built around a popular melody from the Revolutionary War.
The chorus itself will perform “Golden Dream,” by Bob Moline and Randy Bright. The piece is the theme song for the American Adventure attraction at Epcot Center. “It is brimming with patriotic pride and it fit the program so beautifully,” Holt said. It will feature narration by Zander Moricz, the openly gay Pine View School graduate, whose recent commencement address garnered national attention when he had to alter his speech to avoid using the word “gay.” He replaced the word with mentions of “curly hair.”
Moricz’s part includes reading quotes from John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Apollo 11 astronauts who were the first to land on the moon.
The program also features a medley of songs by George M. Cohan, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” Katie O’Connor-Ballantyne’s “I Lift My Lamp” and John Rutter’s “A Ukrainian Prayer,” in honor of those fighting the war, those who have died and the refugees who had to leave their homes.
Holt said about 40 percent of the program features “things that we resonate with and respond to and feel you can’t have the holiday unless you are hearing them.” The rest is both newer works and arrangements that weave in familiar melodies “that are familiar but sound different. There’s a real comfort in that.”
Choral Artists of Sarasota with the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble. 4:30 p.m. July 4, Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $5-$50. 941-387-6046; choralartistssarasota.org
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: July 4th concert by Choral Artists of Sarasota celebrates the nation