BWW Reviews: Baltimore's Star Spangled Symphony Commemorates War of 1812
What a night it was June 17 at Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. As one approached the concert hall prior to the highly anticipated concert, serenading concert goers was England's Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines in their spiffy starched uniforms with their distinguishing white helmets. I spoke to Captain Rich Harvey, from Lympstone, Devon, who stated the 26 musicians were really enjoying their stay in Baltimore. He recalled his last visit was in 1996 on the Royal Yacht with Queen Elizabeth.
Inside the Meyerhoff concert hall at the back of the stage was a gigantic United States flag circa 1812 with 15 stars, 15 stripes and the reason that tickets to the concert were only $15.
Maestra Alsop was outfitted in a stunning white jacket with gold buttons and black pants. The musicians likewise were wearing white blazers and black slacks.
Joining the BSO were the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters Chorus, and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's Irish rock band, O'Malley's March.
The audience was treated to a World Premiere of Philip Glass' "Overture for 2012", co-commissioned by the City of Toronto, the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony. The piece was being performed simultaneously in Baltimore and Toronto.
What a success this six minute overture was. It was typical Glass with his famous off-beats, syncopation, interesting percussion and wonderful French horns. The overture got a thunderous ovation and I'm sure it will be played over and over again.
The 15 member Sea Chanters in their starch white Naval uniforms did a funny a cappella rendition of "The Drunken Sailor" followed by an Armed Forces Medley which included themes from the Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, and Navy. Members of the respective organizations, many in uniform, were encouraged to stand while their respective theme was performed. Another thunderous ovation followed.
Many in the audience were there to see the Maryland Governor perform with his rock band, "O'Malley's March" accompanied by the BSO. Ever since his election, "O'Malley's March" has not performed that often so it was a real treat to watch them perform with Alsop's musicians providing accompaniment. The group has been performing for more than 24 years. They performed three numbers, all written by O'Malley: "Wait for Me", "The Streets of Baltimore" and "The Battle of Baltimore", appropriate since it concerns the War of 1812. The talented band is comprised of O'Malley (vocals, guitar), Jim Eagan (fiddle), Sean McComiskey (accordion), Mac Walter (guitar), Peter Miller (bass), Jamie Wilson (drums) and the incomparable Jared Denhard on trombone, Celtic harp, and bagpipes. Visit www.omalleysmarch.com.
The BSO then performed another Willams' composition "Liberty Fanfare" which was written in 1986 to celebrate the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty.
You couldn't have a patriotic evening without Aaron Copland. Alsop chose wisely, the beautiful "Hoe-Down" from Rodeo. This was followed by the haunting "Shenandoah".
The Sea Chanters returned, this time performing stage right in the box seat area overlooking the orchestra with "America the Beautiful". The audience then gave the performers a standing ovation.
No one was surprised of the choice to perform Tchaikovsky's 1812, Overture solonelle, opus 49, with the Sea Chanters singing in Russian. How appropriate.
The ninety minute concert ended with an encore, John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever". There was even red, white, and blue confetti falling on the audience.
Following the concert, my wife and I headed to Baltimore's Inner Harbor to see the various tall ships with their white lights giving the harbor a magical look. We dined at the Irish pub Tir na Nog overlooking the U.S.S. Constellation. Next to us was a couple from New Jersey who coincidentally had also just come from the BSO concert and couldn't stop raving about it, the BSO and especially Maestra Marin Alsop. Donna and Bill O'Reilly came for the Sailabration and felt it was a "once in a life-time opportunity". They found the concert an "incredible experience". I couldn't have said it better myself.
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Photo Credit: Charles Shubow