When someone asks what kind of music I listen to, I often respond with, “various artists.” I like to listen to songs from a mix of different performers and genres – classic rock, country, contemporary Christian, pop, ‘80s music, movie soundtracks, and songs from musicals all make it onto my playlist.
This sense of variety also describes the TCC Signature Symphony’s “4th on the 3rd” concert. The performance consisted of assorted songs all brought together for one reason: celebrating our country! Artistic director Scott Seaton said that planning the program for the concert was like “being a kid in a candy store,” as he got to really have fun with the songs he chose.
He also explained that this kind of concert comes together fairly quickly, with only one full rehearsal, since the pieces are familiar to the musicians and are played somewhat regularly. Among the recognizable gems played Sunday evening were “Hymn to the Fallen” from the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” the theme from “Superman,” and patriotic favorites like “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and Neil Diamond’s “Comin’ to America.”
The beginning of the concert was an intimate outdoor affair. A small crowd of attendees, including mostly seniors, plus teenagers, and families, gathered and mingled on the lawn near the southeast side of the VanTrease PACE building at Tulsa Community College (TCC) Southeast Campus. Concessions were available from some of the food trucks present, including Andolini’s Pizza and Josh’s Sno Shack. The Signature Jazz Combo, which consisted of a trumpet, saxophone, keyboard, drums, and guitar played jazzy music that was punctuated by the audience’s light clapping.
Shortly after 7 p.m., the Jazz Combo wrapped up and people began heading into the VanTrease PACE building for the symphony concert. In the auditorium, musicians clad in red, white, and blue warmed up onstage while the concertgoers chatted and found their seats. As the main lights dimmed, the small lights overhead twinkled like stars. The stage lighting shifted gradually at different intervals throughout the performance, which greatly enhanced the atmosphere. After Kelly Clark, dean of Visual and Performing Arts at TCC, gave the opening remarks, director Scott Seaton walked onstage and took his place.
After a drumroll, the concert began! The music was phenomenal. Director Scott Seaton was center stage, literally and figuratively. His conducting was nearly a dance, with big, bold strokes, and colloquial gestures that the audience could somewhat interpret. Seaton also spoke to the audience between songs, sharing background and history of the music being played, bringing some education into the evening and making the concert feel like a gathering among friends. One story told was the inspiration behind John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March,” where Sousa watched his son march with the parade that brought the Liberty Bell back to Philadelphia. Seaton took a unique approach to this song by inviting two audience members – those brave enough to raise their hands to the question “Who has a good sense of rhythm?” – onstage to join the symphony by hitting a bell with a hammer at certain intervals in the song. This was a very engaging moment that the audience enjoyed.
The instrumental “Hymn to the Fallen” from “Saving Private Ryan” was lovely, and brought to mind the image of soldiers packing their bags and marching off to fight, then some returning home while others, the fallen, do not, as their spirits forever march on to that Great Destination.
The Armed Forces Salute had people clapping along to the songs for each branch of the military, which were sewn together into one big song. Current and retired soldiers stood during their branch’s respective song, and some pointed at each other as if to say, “Hey, you!”
“God Bless the U.S.A.” also got the audience clapping and was this reporter’s favorite song of the night. James Ross, the audience favorite from the 2020 Tulsa Sings! competition, joined the symphony onstage and sang with a slight country feel. He also performed a rendition of “Comin’ to America,” which he dedicated to his relatives who emigrated here from Mexico.
Other highlights include an original piece written by symphony member Jeff Smith in honor of his father, a veteran who participated in D-Day, and Ross’s rendition of “The House I Live In” by Frank Sinatra. But the clear audience favorite of the night was the song “Oklahoma!” as an encore!
I would encourage anyone who can to go to a Signature Symphony concert at least once. Just like when seeing a play or a musical performed live, when you go to a concert you and all of the audience members get a break from your daily lives. This transcendence of the concert is something that Seaton really emphasizes. “This is a more crucial time than ever to get the message out about the power of live music,” he says.
Seaton describes how the very act of going to a concert at all is an exercise of our American privileges, rights, and freedoms. “The fact that we can do this at all is special,” he says, “because there are many people who can’t.” It’s a good reminder of all we have to be grateful for in our country, even though it has its problems.
Signature Symphony’s new artistic director, Scott Seaton, invites the public to attend future performances. (Photo courtesy of Signature Symphony)
The following is a list of the music performed at the concert: “The Star Spangled Banner,” Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” John Phillip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March,” “God Bless the U.S.A.” (sung by John Ross), theme from Superman, Ron Nelson’s “Rocky Point Holiday,” “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film “Saving Private Ryan,” “Hero” section of Kent Baker’s “Archetypes” piece, Armed Forces Salute, an original song by principal violist Jeff Smith, “The House I Live In” by Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond’s “Comin’ to America,” Sousa’s “Washington Post March,” swingy big band song, and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” “Oklahoma” was the encore performance.
The Signature Symphony will announce next season’s concert schedule on Aug. 1. That information and more can be found here, on their website. For more information about the Signature Symphony and its upcoming schedule, visit https://www.signaturesymphony.org/.