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'Musical Tribute to America' latest addition to Freedom Days lineup
Several musical styles featured on Wednesday's program
FARMINGTON — For many years, the local Kissmah Brass Band was a fixture at the Family Freedomfest celebration at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, part of the city's annual Freedom Days festivities.
The group's annual performances of traditional American music were a staple of the city's Fourth of July celebrations, a chance for residents to enjoy the holiday with a soundtrack that included patriotic standards ranging from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
With this discontinuation of the Family Freedomfest this year, that tradition may have fallen by the wayside, if not for the efforts of Mick Hesse, one of the organizers of the Showcase on Dustin music series that for the past few years has brought a variety of concerts to the city while helping raise money for local community organizations.
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Showcase on Dustin series continues at the First Presbyterian Church, 865 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington, with "A Musical Tribute to America," a new Freedom Days event that will showcase a variety of musicians, dancers and narrators, as well as a poet and a painter in a celebration of American heritage and culture.
"It's a big production, and it's specific to the Fourth of July," Hesse said in describing his approach to the show, adding that he believes the audience will respond well to the variety the show features.
The event features several musical numbers that will be followed by readings of essays by prominent American figures, including George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Condoleezza Rice and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, who was known for his fierce devotion to democracy. The reading of King's famous "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, will be accompanied by four young people reciting the speech's signature phrase in four different languages.
The music for the program covers a range of styles, but all of it is written by American composers, Hesse noted. The list is highlighted by "General Washington's Assembly," a dance suite for flageolet, brass quartet, piano and drums that includes six Colonial-era tunes that were favorites when Washington served as president. The group that will perform that music features Hesse, Marc Reed, Connie Schulz, Don Allen, Hoyle Osborne, Teun Fetz and Robyn Woodard.
Next up will be performances of composer George Cohan's "You're a Grand Old Flag" and the traditional "Yankee Doodle" by pianist Diana Hobbs while dancers from the Mann Dance Academy Inc. perform. Hesse expects that segment to be an audience favorite.
"It'll bring down the house," he said.
Another traditional tune, "Down by the Riverside," will be performed by the Americana Brass group of Amber Swenk, Robyn Woodard, Sean Dugan and Ryan Woodard before the program takes a turn to the uniquely American music form of jazz with performances of "My Way" and "Satin Doll" by a five-piece combo consisting of Delbert Anderson, Mauricio Espinal, Adrian Espinal, Tom Maddox and Teun Fetz.
The guitar duo of Mario Armendariz and Ian Kee will perform "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "America" before Americana Brass returns to play "Boogie Woogie" and "Morning Glory." Local poet Peter Doefert will read his work "Evangeline," which evokes a Civil War-era theme, then composer Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" will be performed by Amber Swenk and Robyn Woodard."
The full ensemble will return to the stage for the rousing finale, a performance of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
Scott Michlin will serve as the emcee. Throughout the event, painter Marilyn Taylor will be creating a watercolor painting on canvas that will be donated to VFW Post 2182, which will be the beneficiary of the concert. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children age 17 and younger.
Hesse expects the event to last approximately 75 minutes. He hopes it draws a big enough response to become a regular part of the city's Freedom Days lineup.
"We always wait and see what the reception is," he said. "But there always seems to be a need or desire to have something patriotic."
Another attractive element of the event is that it will be staged in the air-conditioned comfort of the church at the height of mid-day heat, he said.
"Holy smokes, we wouldn't want to be doing this outside at 3 o'clock," he said, laughing.
"A Musical Tribute to America" is just one of several Freedom Days events that will take place over the next several days, including the San Juan County Gem and Mineral Society show at McGee Park, performances by the U.S. Army Band, a co-ed volleyball tournament, a three-on-three basketball tournament, a pancake breakfast, the Party in the Park, the city of Farmington's annual fireworks display from Sullivan Hill and the Farmington Rotary Electric Light Parade.
Check The Daily Times calendar for a list of Fourth of July activities.
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.