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Guest conductor will orchestrate sentimental journey

July 01, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

Stars and stripes will figure prominently in Saturday's 13th annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield, but they're only part of the celebration.

Guest conductor Harry Ellis Dickson will take the audience on a sentimental journey, transported by favorites such as "Orange Blossom Special," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Dickson will lead the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in a program of light classical and patriotic music, highlighted by cannon fire and fireworks. The concert also will include Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," Edelman's "Gettysburg Suite" and "George M. Cohan Medley."

"It's serious, but it is a fun program," Dickson says.

Dickson, 89, is associate conductor laureate of Boston Pops Orchestra, founder and conductor laureate of Boston Symphony Orchestra Youth Concerts and music director of Boston Classical Orchestra. He has been guest conductor for pops concerts in the United States, Canada, Israel, Greece and Ireland.

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The Boston resident is scheduled to arrive in Hagerstown Friday afternoon, and will rehearse with the orchestra Saturday morning.

Dickson, who had a back operation three years ago, says he will conduct from a high chair. This will be his first performance with the MSO.

He says he would love to meet former MSO music director Barry Tuckwell, who conducted all the previous Salute to Independence concerts at Antietam.

"He's the greatest horn player that ever lived," Dickson says.

Tuckwell says he won't be attending Saturday's concert for professional reasons.

"I don't want to put any pressure on the guest conductor or the musicians. I've made other plans," Tuckwell says.

Dickson joined Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1938 and retired from the first violin section in 1987.

Dickson, who has written four books, is known for delighting audiences with his personal recollections about some of the world's greatest artists and anecdotes about life behind the scenes at Boston's Symphony Hall.

"Anyone associated with an orchestra who has been there as long as I have has stories to tell," he says.

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