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MSO celebrates Independence Day on the site of battle to save the Union

July 03, 2013|By KATE COLEMAN | katec@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland Symphony Orchestra Musical Conductor Elizabeth Schulze leads the MSO in 2010 during the 25th annual Salute to Independence at the Antietam National Battlefield. The 2013 concert is Saturday, July 6.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG — Antietam National Battlefield is a beautiful place — perhaps at its loveliest in early summer. On a clear day, the South County landscape offers views of gently rolling fields of green grass, young corn and golden grain bordered in the distance by bluish mountains and wide open sky.

On Saturday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m., the Maryland Symphony Orchestra will begin its 32nd season with the 28th annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield. Tens of thousands of people will gather with family and friends, picnic and listen to the music. They will end the evening delighting in the fireworks and Tchaikovsky’s rousing “1812” Overture. There will be no cannon fire this year, according to battlefield officials, due to budget cuts.

Salute to Independence has become a treasured tradition and celebration for many. But few can attend without being aware that the landscape was not beautiful 150 years and nearly 10 months ago. On Sept. 17, 1862, after 12 hours of combat, more than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam.

History is ever present at Antietam. More than a century and a half later, that history inspires books, movies and music.

Washington County native Christopher Boyer will serve as master of ceremonies. Boyer, a 1978 graduate of South Hagerstown High School, portrayed Gen. Robert E. Lee in director Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film “Lincoln.” In a phone interview from his Los Angeles home, he called it “the role of a lifetime.”

“I would have done anything to get the part,” he added.

Boyer rented a Confederate general’s uniform, had friends take some video and sent it to the producers, he told The Herald-Mail last January. When they asked if he could ride a horse, Boyer rented one, had more video taken and sent that to producers. He’d been riding since he was a child. He also is certified as a farrier and worked in that trade until he decided to study history at James Madison University, graduating in 1988. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1992, Boyer has pursued a career as an actor, appearing on television, in commercials and in more than 30 films.

As a boy, Boyer played among the cannons at Antietam Battlefield, defending Burnside Bridge against the Yankees, according to his bio. He is thrilled to participate in this year’s MSO event at the battlefield that was such a wonderful part of his youth.

Civil War and Antietam history have inspired singer-songwriter Jennie Avila. She found the seeds for two albums of songs sparked by true local stories of the times. More information about her six-track album, “Civil War Stories in Song,” and 17-track album, “Love & Lore of the Civil War,” can be found on her website, www.jennie avila.com.

Avila and her guitar, along with her frequent collaborators violinist Jay Ansill and Stephen Potter on his handmade ceramic drums, will perform three of her songs with the MSO at Antietam, she said in a phone interview from her Hagerstown home.

“Breakfast at the Hecks” tells the legend of the Heck family in Boonsboro. John Heck fought for the Union Army, his brother, Jake, for the Confederates. After the battle of South Mountain, each sneaked to their mother’s kitchen. They shared breakfast before returning to fight for the opposing forces.

In the files of Doug Bast’s Boonsborough Museum of History, Avila found letters detailing items donated to the “Angel of the Battlefield” for the task of tending the wounded soldiers. Every item mentioned in Avila’s song “To Clara Barton” is listed in one of the letters.

Avila began composing “Warrior Spirit and the Keeper of the Bones,” which she calls “a Civil War ghost story,” after her first visit to a Salute to Independence in 2005.

The musical traditions of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s annual Salute demand the performance of crowd-pleasing favorites, including John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Morton Gould’s “American Salute.”   

America’s independence will be celebrated. Its history will be honored.

Salute indeed.





If you go ...       

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents the 28th annual Salute to Independence

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 6; fireworks will begin at 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: For information, go to www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/salute.htm or www.marylandsymphony.org.

MORE: Limited 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 from 3 to 11:30 p.m. between the National Cemetery on Md. 34 and the concert grounds, but there is still a 300-yard walk. Shuttle-bus fare is $2 round trip; free for ages 4 and younger.



Tips for Salute to Independence

• Wear comfortable shoes, bring a blanket, plenty of water or soft drinks, and a flashlight. Food and drinks will be sold. Portable restrooms (including handicapped-accessible facilities) will be available.

• Tarps or reserved areas should be of reasonable size and generally not exceed 20 feet by 20 feet. The National Park Service will make adjustments if a setup appears excessive. Labeling property with a name is suggested.

• Tarps cannot be placed before 6 a.m. Saturday. Tarps placed earlier than this will be removed.

• Tarps not occupied by 7 p.m. Saturday will be removed.

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

• Expect a minimum traffic delay of 60 to 90 minutes when leaving the event.



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