Predictability is not always a bad thing.
The Fort Worth Symphony presented its Old Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic on Saturday in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, the show that traditionally closes its Concerts in the Garden series, and there was hardly a surprise to be found. But why should there be? This concert, which will be repeated tonight and Monday, is intended to honor the Fourth of July holiday, and it once again did exactly that.
The evening opened with Festival Fanfare, a work by former symphony horn player Sterling Proctor. The work opened in an attention-getting, modern style, became serene and lovely in the middle and then marched to a martial conclusion. So it was an ideal curtain-raiser for what was to follow.
The symphony, under the baton of associate conductor Daniel Black, next offered a medley of tunes from Oklahoma! that was full-voiced, bright and cheery. And, just to make sure there was an appropriate balance in the program, that number was followed by a medley of Texas favorites, including Deep in the Heart of Texas and The Yellow Rose of Texas. Again, the symphony played it like they meant it.
John Williams’ music is as inevitable as watermelon at this show and it was represented Saturday with a selection from his score for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which featured gorgeous and moving solo work by Kyle Sherman, who was recently named principal trumpet of the symphony.
The armed forces are always saluted at his event with performances of all the service anthems. But there was nothing perfunctory about the enthusiastic readings Black and the symphony gave those familiar works, as military veterans stood when they heard their song at this performance before a large crowd of about 3,200.
Baritone Trevor Martin, a member of the Fort Worth Opera’s young artists program, then came on for a set of songs by Stephen Foster, just in case anyone didn’t believe the old-fashioned in the concert title. Martin’s smooth rendering of the Foster favorites was as corny as the songs themselves, because that was the whole idea.
The concert’s first half closed with the rousing Hoe Down from Aaron Copland’s ballet Rodeo. The performance suggested that the symphony had a pretty good handle on this piece, which it has performed in this series and at Bass Hall countless times.
The concert’s second half, which fell after our deadline, was scheduled to continue with usual suspects: more Williams, more Copland works, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and, to make it an official July Fourth-themed concert, a brace of Sousa marches to play under the closing fireworks display.
This weekend’s concerts come on the heels of Friday’s announcement that the symphony and its musicians had agreed to turn to federal mediation to settle their long-running contract dispute. There was, of course, no mention of that at Saturday’s concert. But patrons were handed a flier explaining the musicians’ views on the matter as they entered the concert.
So the concert we know so well has changed very little. But when predictability is paired with dependability, there is no reason for complaint.