The celebration brings back the TSO for the second year in a row. The symphony’s Executive Director Elizabeth McGuire said she’s thrilled about making a return to the amphitheater after last year’s great performance.
“We’re glad it’s a repeat,” McGuire said. “We ultimately would like it to become part of Tuscaloosa’s cultural fabric.”
Last year’s performance found TSO fighting the elements. With a steady drizzle all day, McGuire said she was worried people wouldn’t show up because of the bad weather. But that nightmare, one that McGuire always has in the back of her mind for any concert, never had a chance to come true. The show was a near sellout by the end.
With great feedback from the crowd, the mayor and sponsors, TSO is back again and hoping to build on last year’s success.
“It’s a simple patriotic pops concert,” she said. “It’s not something you really want to make big sweeping changes to. We want it to be something fun and reliable for families.”
The biggest change to the TSO’s performance is the addition of former 2002 Miss America and classical
vocalist Katie Harman, who will infuse the show with a few opera pieces and Broadway music tunes. “Moon River,” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” will be a nod to the concert’s Black Warrior River setting. But in keeping with the holiday, there will certainly be more standard Independence Day tunes.
“She’s a former Miss America, so she definitely has patriotic music in her repertoire,” McGuire said.
Instead of last year’s finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” Harman will lead the crowd into a patriotic sing-along that will include “Yankee Doodle,” “God Bless America” and more.
“It’s the perfect time to bring out music that is not only patriotic but is meaningful,” Harman said. “It’s a great time to bring a good pops concert that people know and love.”
Harman is no stranger to donning her stars and stripes, in good times or bad. She won her crown less than two weeks after the September 11th attacks and earned a front row seat to the aftermath.
“Obviously it was a horrific time, but I was also extremely fortunate to see servicemen, rescue workers, policemen, firemen and thousands and thousands of America citizens really give up themselves in a way that perhaps we haven’t seen since World War II,” Harman said.
Her experiences with 9/11 as well as her husband, an Oregon Air National Guard pilot, help her to appreciate the holiday even more.
“I think everyone is feeling very patriotic and they want to be able to express that and share it,” Harman said. “Music is a wonderful way to do that.”
With 6,740 more seats than TSO’s usual home at Moody Music Hall, the Amphitheater provides a bigger stage for the symphony.
“The Amp as a venue is very welcoming for people who wouldn’t normally see the orchestra,” McGuire said. “It helps breaks down any preconceived notions about the symphony by being approachable to the average person.”
She said the reasonable ticket prices, helped by good sponsors, make it a lot more accessible to the Tuscaloosa public. The outdoors venue might also welcome families who might be afraid of bringing their kids to a quiet indoor space like Moody.
Ultimately, she hopes that these July 4th performances not only celebrate the holiday but also shed light on all of TSO’s other programs throughout the year.
“We know that we’re fun, that we’re not just a bunch of snobs,” McGuire joked. “This is a way to show that.”
In addition to the concert, the Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority is hosting a free Kids Zone from 6 to 8:30 p.m., in the area across the street from the Amphitheater, next to The Tuscaloosa News building.
This year’s Kids Zone will be even bigger than 2011’s with everything from bounce houses, climbing walls and stilt walkers to the usual fair favorites, like face-painting and balloons.
Tickets for the concert are $5 for an individual or $15 for a family four-pack. Children 5 and under get in free with an adult. You can buy tickets through Ticketmaster or the local Amphitheater box office.
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