Ring Fourth – Symphony Bells to Celebrate American Independence

On the Fourth of July, at the far end of Market Street, freedom will ring … and those doing the ringing will definitely need some earplugs. “It can be quite deafening,” says Delaware Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Alan Jordan.

Jordan is talking about the DSO’s Seven Bells of Remembrance, which will ring loud and true as the 1812 Overture heralds the annual arrival of fireworks over the Christina River, during the City of Wilmington’s July 4th Celebration at Tubman-Garrett Park on Thursday night.

 

Want to ring one of those bells? This year, Alan says, you can…

“We’re actually having an online contest that evening where people in the audience can answer a few fun questions about music, and we will pull the results from our website and have a winner come up to ring the bells during the performance of the 1812 Overture. It’s a pretty easy part. I mean basically, you’re cued to start and then a little bit later you’re cued to stop. But somebody will be making their Delaware Symphony Orchestra performing debut Thursday night.

“The bells were part of a larger collection of church bells gathered by Brother David Schlatter of the Franciscan order here in Wilmington after Sept. 11, 2001. Brother David’s mentor was the chaplain for the fire department and one of the first victims who died during that attack. Brother David went to the memorial service for his mentor and had this inspiration that he needed to do something. And so we started collecting these bells.

“At one point, our principal percussionist Bill Kerrigan reached out to Brother David and said, you know, there are a number of pieces in the standard orchestral repertoire that require bells.

“And so over the years, Brother David worked with Bill to secure seven bells with specific pitches that work for pieces like Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Night on Bald Mountain and Shostakovich’s Symphony Number 11 and others.

“But there are also the occasional pieces like the 1812 Overture that call for chimes to be played at a certain point, but it’s going to sound so much better if we use these bells.

 

“We are also taking advantage of a pretty significant anniversary, of man’s landing on the moon. So we’re going to be doing a number of pieces that somehow tie to space, including the opening of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which of course is actually Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. There will be some John Williams. We’re going to have some music from Star Trek and music from Holst’s The Planets.

“Last year, it really did feel like a big return to the big stage in Wilmington for the Delaware Symphony. This is definitely not the Grand Opera House or the Gold Ballroom. It’s an audience that probably best represents a cross-section of the demographics in Wilmington. There are families. There are people from all the neighborhoods, people that you see walking from their homes with their folding chairs and their picnic.

It’s Americana at its finest and it’s Wilmington at its finest. They come for the music, they come for the afternoon activities, they come to have a nice picnic, they come for the food trucks, and probably a few of them come for the fireworks. Maybe, maybe, just a few.”

“But there are people who are there to intently listen to the music and there are others that are treating this as their background music for their family holiday picnic, and that’s fine. It’s all good.”


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