We celebrated Independence Day this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl along with Sarah Hicks conducting the LA Phil, Smokey Robinson and fantastic fireworks. It was a perfect evening and an emotional one for me.
First, as usual, we sang the National Anthem. 17,000 people raising their voices in praise of our country, with a little added flair — When the line “bombs bursting in air” came up, firework bombs shot up and it was thrilling.
Later in the program Sarah conducted the marching songs of the five branches of the service (Yes, Coast Guard was included) and she asked veterans of each service to stand when their song was played. The audience cheered each group. Tears streamed down the faces of the vets as we were acknowledged.
Smokey sang his greatest hits, and then introduced his back up singers and band, including one singer who was obviously pregnant — “and Mary and company.”
The evening ended with John Phillip Sousa and Stars and Stripes forever, piccolo chorus and all.
I was thinking as we drove home that America seems under attack from without and within. There are stories everywhere bemoaning our errors and trials.
But here, on our birthday, in the epicenter of complaint and defeatism, a sold out crowd celebrated, cheered, and showed tremendous respect for America, its veterans, and heroes. On the stage an Asian woman conducted one of the world’s great orchestras, a 75 year old black singer celebrated with a baby not yet born, and heroic music and fireworks filled the night air with wonder.
If that doesn’t tell the story of a great country, I don’t know what does.
Happy Birthday America. Many happy returns.