On the Fourth of July, Greater Columbus residents will celebrate the independence of America, but in its annual “Patriotic Pops” concert, the Columbus Symphony will have another birthday in mind, too.
The Independence Day-themed concert — which will actually take place two days prior to Independence Day, on Saturday, at the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons — will feature all the usual patriotic fare, including “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
But running through the program will be the music of John Williams, the Academy Award-winning film composer who turned 90 in February.
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“I can’t think of a more patriotic or American composer,” said Principal Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz of Williams, whose compositions are always a sure bet to show up in concerts on or around Independence Day.
The difference this time, though, is the sheer number of Williams tunes on the bill.
Over the course of the concert’s two halves will be selections from, among others, Williams’ scores for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — all of which were directed by the composer’s longtime collaborator, director Steven Spielberg.
Chafetz said that the symphony “comes to life” when playing Williams’ music.
“There’s something about the way he scores for the entire orchestra that comes alive,” he said. “And this warmth of sound just embraces you.”
The tribute is so expansive that it even includes Williams’ music from one of his less well-regarded collaborations with Spielberg: the World War II farce “1941,” starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
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“The ‘March from “1941”’ is fantastic,” Chafetz said. “That’s always a nice treat because there’s an Air Force swagger about it that he managed to capture.”
Vocalist Dee Donasco will sing patriotic standards and pop tunes, and the evening will close as it traditionally does with “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and then a fireworks show.
“Patriotic Pops” isn’t the only orchestral concert set for the Fourth of July weekend.
Westerville Symphony Orchestra
On Sunday, the Westerville Symphony Orchestra will offer its “Sound of Freedom” concert at the Alum Creek Amphitheatre — its first Independence Day-themed performance since before the pandemic.
It’s the return not just of a popular concert but also something even more important, said Music Director Peter Stafford Wilson.
“I think we learned around 9/11 that communities need to come together, and the orchestra provides a wonderful opportunity to do that,” said Wilson, contrasting the community-building of such concerts with the divisiveness found in much of society today.
“I wonder sometimes if part of the divisiveness that exists is because events like concerts have not taken place in such a long time, and that that’s just kind of fueled our singularity,” he said. “Whereas before, we could sort of come together and agree to disagree but still celebrate wonderful things.”
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There will be plenty of “wonderful things” on tap in Westerville, including the orchestra performing movements from the “Grand Canyon Suite” and “Mississippi Suite” by Ferde Grofe and “Liberty Fanfare” by John Williams.
Vocalist Leo Welsh, known for his performances of the national anthem at Blue Jackets games, will be on hand to perform a plethora of patriotic music, including songs by George M. Cohan.
“I think the community and the orchestra are fired up,” Wilson said.
Central Ohio Symphony
And on Independence Day itself — July 4 — the Central Ohio Symphony will offer its own patriotic concert on Phillips Glen at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.
An eclectic set will include movie music from “Jurassic Park” and “The Wizard of Oz,” a salute to the armed forces and patriotic staples by John Philip Sousa and Aaron Copland.
Vocalist Meredith Keller, a recent graduate of Delaware Hayes High School, will be the soloist on “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America” and the national anthem.
“(Keller) is a wonderful young singer,” said Executive Director Warren Hyer. “Just an amazingly powerful voice.”
Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” will be performed, and fireworks will follow the music-making.
“They’re all ordered and ready to go,” Hyer said.
At a glance
• The Columbus Symphony’s “Patriotic Pops” will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons, East Rich and South High streets. General lawn admission costs $35, or $10 for age 12 and younger, free for age 2 and younger. (www.columbussymphony.com)
• The Westerville Symphony’s “Sounds of Freedom” will take place at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Alum Creek Park Amphitheater, 221 W. Main St., Westerville. Free admission. (www.westervillesymphony.org)
• The Central Ohio Symphony’s July 4th concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Phillips Glen, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware. Free lawn admission, or $10 for chair seating. (www.centralohiosymphony.org)