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Editorial - Reflections on a concert

July 09, 1997

Considering that it was Maestro Barry Tuckwell's final performance at the Antietam Battlefield, there was a bit of sadness surrounding the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's 12th annual Salute to Independence July 5. But the near-perfect weather and the stirring patriotic music played by the symphony seemed to cancel out any regret felt by the more than 30,000 who attended.

We note all of this almost a week after the event because after more than a decade of concerts, those who attend may get the idea that it's a simple show to put on. It isn't. The flawless presentation is the result of months and months of planning, during which every aspect of the event, from the sound system's wiring to the number of dumpsters needed, is checked and re-checked.

It also requires major funding from local corporate sponsors, including F&M Bank, Antietam Cable, The Herald-Mail, Washington County's Gaming Commission and the National Park Service. It involves the dedication of 70 musicians who must sometimes play in less-than-ideal conditions. And it necessitates a crew of technicians, crowd-control specialists and volunteers.

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Because of all this, the event has become a tradition for many people in and out of the area. They come with blankets, lawn chairs and picnic coolers, to enjoy beautiful music on the site of one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. The battlefield is treated reverently by visitors, with park officials reporting that most people are apparently taking home any trash they generate.

When writing editorials, even about positive happenings like this one, the temptation is to suggest "improvements." We will not succumb, even though some have noted that it takes up to an hour for traffic to get out of the park after the concert is over.

That's the price people pay for attending the concert, and if it were easier to get in and out, it might attract the sort of folks who are always racing for the door (or the parking lot) when an event is over, and heaven help anyone who gets in their way.

If people use that hour to reflect on what happened at Antietam, or just to spend a little more time with their families, is that such a bad thing? No, it isn't, which is why people are already looking forward to the next concert in July 1998.

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