BY TOM LAVIS
The stirring sounds of patriotic songs will swell into the sky alongside fireworks at Johnstown’s Point Stadium during an Independence Day celebration.
Under the direction of Maestro Istvan Jaray, the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 4 in the downtown stadium.
The concert has become a tradition that thousands of area residents relish as they top off their holiday celebrations.
With the help of area business partners, the symphony has presented the free concert annually since the 1989 centennial commemoration of the 1889 Johnstown Flood.
“It is a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of our great country,” Jaray said.
“The music is carefully selected to represent the men and women who have fought for our freedom. Thousands of them come from our own city and cities just like Johnstown across the United States.”
During the concert, Jaray and the orchestra will proudly acknowledge the members of the armed forces, both present and past, for their selfless service.
As the orchestra plays each military branch’s anthem, Jaray will ask that each attendee who has served or is serving in that particular branch stand up and be recognized.
“It is one of the most emotional moments of the concert,” said Brooke Welsh, JSO executive director.
The audience gets to see these people standing in their own ranks and show their appreciation with applause to honor these patriots.
“It’s a wonderful way for family and friends to honor our veterans and to see how many in the community have served,” Welsh said.
The full orchestra performs patriotic and well-loved musical selections for an audience of thousands of loyal citizens, children and families, young and old, who fill the stadium seats.
Tenor Danny Conner of Rockwood will sing “God Bless the USA” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” He also will lead patriotic sing-alongs with the audience.
This will mark Connor’s first appearance with the orchestra.
“I’m honored to sing with the symphony and to be part of this wonderful event,” Connor said.
“I would encourage all my family and friends to join with me in this musical celebration.”
The symphony’s Youth Orchestra Brass Ensemble, another performing group in JSO programs, will showcase the musical talent of area youth.
“Once again, the Johnstown area’s financial institutions have stepped forward to provide the funds needed to present this concert,” said Welsh.
The Tribune-Democrat continues as the prime advertising supporter of the event and the City of Johnstown donates the use of the Point Stadium rent free because no admission is charged.
Jaray views the Fourth of July concert as one of the symphony’s most important performances of the year.
“This concert is our effort to reach a wide cross-section of the community, many of whom may have never heard the symphony,” Jaray said.
“People are invited to come and enjoy an evening of patriotic music by a full orchestra. It would be nice if those people who enjoy our music would come hear us during our regular performance season.”
Several polkas are on the program, including the “July 4th Polka” and “Pennsylvania Polka.” A new addition will be the “Thunder and Lightning Polka” by Johann Strauss.
The audience will be asked to sing along to some patriotic sounds.
They also will be singing such selections as “You Are My Sunshine,” “America the Beautiful,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “God Bless America.”
The symphony will present the concert’s finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
The overture serves as the cue for the fireworks display.
The Greater Johnstown Water Authority is donating the use of its property in the Prospect neighborhood for the fireworks staging area.
As the fireworks continue, the orchestra calls upon the genius of John Philip Sousa as marches such as “Stars ’n’ Stripes,” “Washington Post,” “Hands Across the Sea,” “El Capitan” and “Manhattan Beach” present a spirited backdrop to the festivities.
For the first time, area Boy Scouts will canvas the stands to collect donations to help defray expenses.
“The Fourth of July concert is an evening filled with amazing music and spectacle,” Welsh said.
“The concert is provided at no cost to the community as a way to demonstrate the symphony’s appreciation to The city for their ongoing support.”
In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be held at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, 326 Napoleon St., Johnstown.
What: Independence Day Extravaganza featuring Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.
Where: Point Stadium, downtown Johnstown.
When: 8 p.m. July 4.
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