What is a good example of the rewards that come to those who live a life of rectitude and piety? Try this one as a prime candidate: Say you are scheduled to go to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre on the evening of July 4 to hear conductor William Henry Curry and the North Carolina Symphony, replete with festivities and fireworks. By all odds, it promises to be fricassee time for players and patrons alike. Then along come climatic disturbances that ultimately blow over, making for a full fifteen degrees of blessed relief.
Curry (substituting for the ailing Grant Llewellyn) chose a particularly symphonic treatment of “The Star Spangled Banner” to open, an arrangement by Smith, Damrosch and Sousa. (Isn’t it always so much better when some honored guest star is not trying to sing it?) Sousa was heard from again with the “Semper Fidelis March.” Richard Rodgers contributed the “big” work of the evening, his “South Pacific: Symphonic Scenario,” an extended lush work seemingly involving every song he ever wrote.
Paul Randall, principal trumpet with the orchestra, was the featured musician. He was an especially smooth operator on Offenbach’s “American Eagle Waltz.” He later reprised that style with the Leroy Anderson creation, “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby,” a work that Curry suitably characterized as the composer at his “most lyrical and sentimental.”
John Williams was represented by two predictably grand and imposing pieces, “Superman March” and “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” both definitely “Star Wars-ish.” Victor Herbert’s “American Fantasie” was a pleasing orchestral pastiche of familiar and favorite American songs.
What was the musical high point of the evening for the full orchestra? Possibly it would have been Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.” Here was a resplendent and magisterial treatment that you don’t hear at most graduation ceremonies.
There was no official attendance count provided for these multi-hour Independence Day celebrations. Observing due caution not to over-estimate the size of the crowd, anecdotal evidence suggested that it contained every resident of Cary, Raleigh and several other nearby lesser municipalities.