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MSO concert hails America with Sousa, Tchaikovsky and fireworks

June 29, 2011|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • The Maryland Symphony Orchestra performs in the 2009 Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield. The outdoor concert will be on July 2 this year.
File photo

The SOS went out, donations came in and on Saturday, July 2, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present the 26th annual “Salute to Independence” at Antietam National Battlefield.

Just a few months ago, the yearly extravaganza — which draws as many as 35,000 people — was in danger of not happening. The MSO learned that the loss of a major sponsor, reductions in other sponsorship levels and expected reduction in the battlefield’s contribution put the annual event at risk. “Salute” costs more than $200,000 to stage.

“I think most folks don’t realize that we can’t charge for tickets as it’s a national park,” Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email.

The “Save Our Salute” campaign was launched in March, and in six weeks, $50,000 was raised to cover the shortfall.

The show will go on.

Antietam Cable Television’s Wes Decker will serve as master of ceremonies. Isabelle Maina, a student at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, will sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“Salute to Independence” celebrates America’s 235th birthday and marks the beginning of the MSO’s 30th season.

Guest soloist Kellye Cash, Miss America 1987, is looking forward to the evening. The songs she will sing are appropriately patriotic — “God Bless the USA” among them. She sang it with Lee Greenwood at a ball game in 1986, the year after he wrote it, Cash said in a recent phone interview from Ruidosa, N.M.

Cash was there to host the Miss New Mexico pageant and to perform a benefit concert, “An Evening of Patsy Cline with Kellye Cash,” singing 18 to 20 Cline songs. From 2001 to 2009, Cash toured “all over” with “Always … Patsy Cline,” the musical about the country music star.

“Now I’m pretty much too old to play Patsy Cline,” the down-to-earth Cash said. “She died at 30. I’m 46.”

She will sing Cline’s hit song “Crazy” at Antietam, and will perform Martina McBride’s “Anyway” in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cash is the great-niece of country music icon Johnny Cash. She performed with him in Jackson, Tenn., after she won her crown. They sang “Jackson,” the song, he pointed out, that he didn’t sing with anyone but June Carter Cash, his wife.

“At the time, of course, I was just this 21-year-old college student. I can remember singing it and not really experiencing who Johnny really was.” It wasn’t until she got older that she realized he was legendary. “Oh, man. He’s Johnny Cash,” she said.

Cash’s dad was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot so she grew up “all over the country.” She went to high school in California and college in Memphis, Tenn. She married a “guy from California,” lived there for a while, and finally settled in Tennessee. She lives with her family in the Tennessee town of Milan — pronounced MYE-lin — population 7,000 people.

“Small-town living is really nice for raising a family, and we’ve really liked it,” she said.

Cash is busy. She has three children — a boy in college, girls in high school and middle school. She performs her Patsy Cline concert with symphony orchestras and sometimes with a piano and a bass. She’s also a certified Zumba instructor and teaches five classes a week.

Cash’s mom will accompany her to Antietam. She’s researched the battlefield and is thrilled to join her daughter, Cash said.

“Salute to Independence” will celebrate America with John Philip Sousa marches, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and the Maryland Army National Guard’s cannons accompanying Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture as fireworks light up the summer night sky.

“This Salute is especially meaningful because we were sustained by so many generous members of the community who kept the tradition alive,” Schulze wrote. “For me, personally, to perform on sacred ground in a patriotic celebration is a privilege that I look for forward too every year.”

If you go:


WHAT: 26th annual Salute to Independence with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 2; fireworks will begin about 9:45 p.m.

WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield north of Sharpsburg

COST: There is no admission fee to the park, but donations will be accepted and go toward next year’s Salute.

CONTACT: Go to or

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