The evenings of July 2, 3 and 4th were very special this year at the Hollywood Bowl. For their annual "July 4th Fireworks Spectacular", the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed a rousing tribute to the various icons in American culture, from cowboys, to astronauts, to soldiers. Interestingly enough, film and television music was prominently featured, including a special world premiere suite.
With a 90-piece orchestra on stage conducted by Timothy Muffitt, the concert began, as all Bowl concerts do, with the "Star Spangled Banner". The sold-out crowd of over 17,000 people stood and sang proudly as the sun began to set over the Hollywood hills. Muffitt introduced the concert, and would speak between the pieces, interjecting some wit and humor into his narration. They began with a tribute to The Cowboys, music from Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven was performed, an elongated suite of music that showcased the brass section. Next up was The Athletes, with Charles Fox's theme from "Wide World of Sports". Fox was in attendance on the July 2 performance, much to the crowd's delight. This was followed by John Williams' "Summon the Heroes", which he had composed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and featured an excellent trumpet solo by Jon Lewis.
On the same day that the space shuttle roared into space, The Astronauts were given their due, with Alexander Courage's theme from "Star Trek". Unfortunately the percussion seemed to be missing in some sections, and it was difficult to hear the main melody. The Soldiers were honored with Morton Gould's "American Salute", a fantasy on the Civil War-era classic, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". It was an excellent piece, and very stirring.
Of course one American Icon that deserves recognition is the common man, and what better way to celebrate them than Aaron Copeland's seminal classic, "Fanfare for the Common Man". The brass was strong, and the crowd was very excited to hear it. The first half of the concert ended with a world premiere suite of music from John Ottman's score to Superman Returns, to celebrate The Superheroes. The suite, which was arranged by Damon Intrabartolo, calls for an orchestra and choir - and unfortunately the choir was not present at the Hollywood Bowl. (Look for the suite to be performed later this month, with choir, at the film music festival in Ubeda, Spain.) Other than that minor detail, the suite flowed relatively smoothly, with only a few choppy parts, and ended with a rendition of John Williams' Superman theme.
After the intermission, we were treated to our special guest: singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins. With his band on stage, Loggins sang (and sometimes led the audience in singing) a few of his hit numbers, including "Return to Pooh Corner", "Celebrate Me Home", "This is It", and more. The audience has a blast, and when he came back for his encore: "Footloose", they really went wild.
Of course the concert was the "Fireworks Spectacular", and so, with a suite of music by John Philip Sousa triumphantly playing, the fireworks show began. "The Washington Post", "Semper Fidelis" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" were performed, and the pyrotechnic display was matched and timed to hit certain beats in the pieces, making it a delightful feast for the eyes and ears. When it was all said and done, for the final encore, "America the Beautiful" was played, and Loggins returned to the stage once more to join in singing.
This was not the first concert of the Bowl's summer season, but it certainly helped kick off the July concert series with a bang. Later this month, look for "Bugs Bunny on Broadway" (July 7), "Amadeus Live" (July 20), and "The Sound of Music" (July 28-30). Later this summer they will have "Sunset Boulevard" (August 6), "Fantasia with Fireworks" (August 18-19), and of course, "John Williams and the Music of the Movies" (September 1-2). Look for "The Big Picture: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals" on September 3, and then "Classic American Film Scores" on September 12. Video Games Live will return to the Bowl after a successful concert last year, on September 21.