Alfred Savia, Conductor. Conner Prairie, July 1-4.
Picnics with patriotic music at Conner Prairie have become an Indiana family tradition. The festive atmosphere nevertheless turned a bit sober with two highlights to remind us of the costs of war in present and succeeding generational human terms.
Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell" is widely linked to Ken Burns' 1990 Civil War documentary which opens with Ungar's haunting waltz tune, a Scottish lament. The ISO presented Calvin Custer's arrangement, featuring Phillip Palermo with a beautifully articulated violin solo and actor Robert Neal delivering a moving narration of Sullivan Ballou's letter written on July 14, 1861, the day before he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run.
Abraham Lincoln impersonator Dean Dorrell followed with a presentation of the Gettysburg Address underscored by Randy Edelman's music for the film Gettysburg. The first act of the concert, also featuring music by John Williams, Chales Ives and Steven Foster, closing with the annual recognition of Servicemen and Servicewomen in the audience.
The evening also featured appearances by re-enactors from the Indiana Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and an authentic Civil War Honor Guard representing the U.S. 19th Infantry. Saturday's pending storm shortened the second act to include only Sousa's "The Liberty Bell," Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing" and Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
As always, the holiday program concluded with a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," replete with four cannons fired on the mark by the 163rd Field Artillery Unit of Indiana's National Guard. Fireworks accompanied by the ISO playing Sousa marches gained even more oohs and ahs with intermittent flashes of lightening circling the concert arena.