July 4 'Musical Tribute to America' concert in Farmington features eccentric program

Tunes by Sousa, Gershwin, Joplin and more will be performed

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Mick Hesse and a variety of other local performers will deliver a program of tunes by American composers during the "Musical Tribute to America" on July 4 in Farmington.
  • "A Musical Tribute to America" takes place at 3 p.m. July 4 at the First Presbyterian Church, 865 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington.
  • Admission is $10 for adults and free for children younger than 18.
  • An ice cream social will follow the performance.

FARMINGTON — Trumpet player and music impresario Mick Hesse has been organizing a Fourth of July concert in Farmington for the past six years, bringing together many of the area's top players for a mid-afternoon celebration of the work of some of the nation's better-known composers.

Hesse is quick to emphasize that this year's concert, "A Musical Tribute to America," does not feature patriotic music exclusively, although it certainly includes some tunes that fall into that category. Instead, he said, the program is filled with compelling material that has withstood the test of time and reflects the character of the country.

"It's the kind of music people all around the world like to hear from America," he said.

For every rousing, red, white and blue-soaked paean by the likes of Francis Scott Key, Irving Berlin or John Phillips Sousa, the concert is balanced by a tune by ragtime legend Scott Joplin, singer-songwriter John Denver or jazz-pop-classical master George Gershwin.

That eccentric tone is epitomized by the preconcert music, a performance of P.D.Q. Bach's "Choral Prelude on an American Hymn for the Fourth Day of the Seventh Month After New Year's Eve" by Julia Thom on organ. P.D.Q. Bach is a fictional character created by Peter Schickele, whom Hesse aptly described as "a crazy American composer who does weird things."

Hesse has rounded up a wide and impressive variety of musicians to perform, including Edie Farm and Diana Hobbs on piano, the acoustic guitar/vocal duo the Zia Chicks and the Classical String Quartet consisting of Brandon Christensen, Tennille Taylor, Cory McBride and Anastasia Nellos. The lineup also includes jazz trumpeter Delbert Anderson as part of a trio with Farm and drummer Nicholas Lucero performing two works by the late Charles "Buddy" Bolden, an early-20th century pioneering cornet player whose legacy has been buoyed by the recent release of the biopic "Bolden" featuring the music of Wynton Marsalis.

Hobbs will perform two pieces by Joplin, "Pineapple Rag" and "Paragon Rag," that Hesse expects to serve as a highlight of the afternoon. Hobbs will be accompanied by dancer Takoda Winer from the Mann Dance Academy Inc. on the latter.

"Of course, everybody knows (Joplin's work) from 'The Sting' (the 1973 Academy Award winner for Best Picture starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford), but these are unknown rags, and Diana likes to do those," he said. "She does a real nice job with rags."

The concert also will feature Hesse's group the Trumpet Geezers pairing with Farm on a performance of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe. While the tune is considered a patriotic standard closely associated with the Civil War era, Hesse noted the music has been adapted and reinvented several times to suit various purposes, a history that makes it a good fit for the unconventional nature of this program.

"It's been used in unbelievably different ways," he said.

The program is not restricted to music. An instrumental version of the first verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Farm officially will open the program, but readings of the second, third and fourth verses will follow at various points in the concert. And poet Dennis Mathis will read his original work "America, a Passionate Nation" midway through the proceedings.

"There's a little something for everybody," Hesse said.

"A Musical Tribute to America," the latest concert in the Showcase on Dustin series, takes place at 3 p.m. July 4 at the First Presbyterian Church, 865 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children younger than 18. Proceeds will benefit People Assisting the Homeless.

An ice cream social will follow. Scott Michlin will emcee the concert.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.