Salute to Independence

In its 25th season, MSO returns to Antietam National Battlefield for free concert

In its 25th season, MSO returns to Antietam National Battlefield for free concert

June 29, 2006|by KATE COLEMAN

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people will gather at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg 230 years after the first Independence Day.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present its 21st annual Salute to Independence as it begins its 25th season.

Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard called the event a joyous celebration.

"This is one where we love the music and the fireworks and just being together as Americans," he said.

MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze is looking forward to beginning her eighth season in her post.

"There's no better way to celebrate our big year than to share it with our biggest audience of the season," according to Schulze in an e-mail interview.

There will be plenty of music to go around. The program includes "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Maryland, My Maryland," the "Armed Forces Salute," "Sing Out America," John Philip Sousa's "The Liberty Bell March" and "El Capitan," and Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."


The orchestra also will perform "Quest for the Grail" by Hagerstown resident Michael Mogensen.

Mogensen, 33, wrote the 5 1/2-minute work inspired by the legend of King Arthur for the Washington County All-County High School Orchestra. Schulze conducted the piece in the ensemble's January 2005 concert and liked it so much she wanted to share it with a larger community.

"It's got an attractive 'Star Wars' quality to it, though the music's all Mogensen," Schulze said and called it epic and rhythmically exciting.

Mogensen, who plays French horn, represents the third generation of his family as a member of the Hagerstown Municipal Band. Although he'll conduct a piece he wrote for the band's 90th anniversary, he won't play this summer as he has for the previous 15 seasons. He's working on a commission for the Bethesda, Md.-based Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra. The U.S. Air Force Band premiered another of his compositions, "Aerial Fantasy," Memorial Day weekend.

Another hometown talent will join the festivities at Antietam. Kelly Wright, a general assignment reporter for Fox News Channel in Washington, D.C., grew up in Hagerstown and lives here again.

Wright will narrate Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," a work Schulze called "quintessentially American." Lincoln's words are as relevant today as when he first spoke them, Schulze said, and Wright would agree.

As he prepares for his Antietam performance, he said he's trying to think as Lincoln would addressing the people of today.

"I can't talk like Lincoln, I don't look like Lincoln, I'm not as tall as Lincoln, but I can sure enough recognize and empathize with his heart. And his heart was, 'I am an American president, I am an American leader, but I am also, as a leader, a servant of the American people,'" Wright said.

He is looking forward to the opportunity. "The MSO playing and then my actually doing the narration of Lincoln - it's just incredible."

The booming guns of the Maryland National Guard's Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 110th Field Artillery, will accompany the orchestra in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Fireworks will light the South County sky and "The Stars and Stripes Forever," the official march of the United States, will bring the evening to a close.

The annual concert at the battlefield holds special meaning.

"The historic significance of Antietam makes our patriotic musical offerings resonate more deeply for musician and listener alike," Schulze said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Twenty-first annual Salute to Independence with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1; fireworks will begin at about 9:45 p.m.

WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg

COST: There is no admission fee to the park, but donations will be accepted. Half the money collected sponsors the event, and half goes to preserve the battlefield.

MORE: The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will mark its 25th season by giving away two 26-inch bicycles before the concert. Children ages 6 to 18 are eligible to enter to win and can sign up at the MSO Guild Symphony Store tent at the battlefield.

The park's visitors center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Several of the park roads will not be available to tour after 3 p.m., said Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof.

Parking is available in the park, and additional parking can be found along Md. 65 and Md. 34, which border the park.

County Commuter will provide shuttle-bus service, $1 per person round trip, 3 to 11:30 p.m., from the parking lot at National Cemetery on Md. 34 to the concert grounds, but there still will be a 300-yard walk.

Wear comfortable shoes, bring a blanket, plenty of water or soft drinks and a flashlight. Food and drinks will be sold.

No grills, no pets and no soliciting. Canopies and beach umbrellas are permitted but must be taken down before the concert.

Expect a minimum of a one-hour to 90-minute traffic delay when leaving the event.

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