How Iowa celebrates Independence Day 1


Maestro Joseph Giunta

By Tom Quiner

What better way to celebrate this great nation’s independence than with American song and fireworks!

I attended the Yankee Doodle Pops concert at the footsteps of the Iowa Capital on July 1. The weather was perfect.  Our Capitol’s gold dome glistened with pride in the early evening sunlight.  Thousands streamed in with their blankets, folding chairs, and kids in tow.

The music was pure Americana, almost.

Simon Estes

Simon Estes

The event enjoyed added luster with the presence of Iowa’s own Simon Estes.  The 72 year old opera star showed off his timeless baritone voice in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.”  My group debated whether Irving Berlin’s classic song would make a better national anthem.  My wife and I vote yes.  Our good friend, Rebecca, votes that we stay with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

What do you think?

Here is Kate Smiths version of the song that made her famous.  It demonstrates how a great song connects us:

I think Berlin’s song is much stronger musically than our current national anthem. And it certainly holds its own lyrically:

***

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

***

Having said all that, Tina Haase sang a beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner to kick off the evening.  Unfortunately, most of us ordinary folks can’t hit the high notes like Ms. Haase can.

Mr. Estes delighted us with “I Got Plenty O Nothin” from Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. Then he thrilled us with the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein Jr. classic, “Ol’ Man River.  His low notes generated cheers.

The one non-American piece was the dynamic 1812 Overture by Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky.  It was spectacular as fireworks cascaded the sky from different directions.

For one glorious evening, all was right with the world.  This is a great country.  Our thanks to Maestro Joseph Giunta, Simon Estes, and all the musicians who entertained us with such uplifting music.

Additional thanks are extended to our men and women in the armed forces.  We salute you. Our prayers are with you.

God bless America.

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