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Classical View: Allentown Band at SteelStacks, Bethlehem

“We [the Allentown Band] love playing this annual Independence Day Concert at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks,” says Ronald Demkee, Allentown Band Conductor.

“It’s always a festive enthusiastic audience celebrating America’s birthday, which happens to coincide with the Allentown Band’s first performance, on July 4, 1828,” Demkee says.

The “July 4th Concert” concert will be presented by the Allentown Band, 7:30 p.m. July 4, Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks, Bethlehem.

The concert opens with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Next is Morton Gould’s arrangement of “Yankee Doodle.” The piece, penned in 1945, exudes Gould’s typical fun orchestration, entertaining for the audience and inspiring for the musicians.

Composer Gregory Fritze’s work “Celebration” follows.

Soprano Evelyn Stewart joins the band for “Summertime,” from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” and Steven Reisteter’s arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”

The band continues with John Philip Sousa’s “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty March” composed for the Paris Exhibition in 1900.

The next several selections feature soloists or instrument sections. Guest saxophonist Paul Cohen, who is on the faculties of Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University, Queens College and New York University, performs “Rhumba” by Maurice Whitney and “Valse Caprice” by composer Herbert L. Clarke.

Says Demkee, “Clarke was a cornet virtuoso who wrote many solos for brass instruments, but only two, until recently discovered, for the saxophone.

“‘Valse Caprice’ was premiered earlier this year and ours will be the second performance of this yet unpublished piece,” Demkee says.

The band’s saxophone section is featured in Billy Joel’s “Root Beer Rag.” The trombone section is highlighted in “76 Trombones” from the 1957 Broadway musical, “The Music Man.”

Xylophone soloist Craig Mandelbaum performs “Triplets Rag” by composer George Hamilton Green and “Xylophonia” by former Sousa Band member Joe Green.

The band proceeds with several medleys, including “Salute to American Jazz,” comprising Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and Weather Report’s “Birdland.”

Vocalist Chet Brown joins the band in two medleys arranged by Ken Moyer: “Sophisticated Ellington” and “Neil Diamond’s America Medley.”

The concert closes with Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” the Hayman-Reisteter arrangement of “Armed Forces Salute” and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“July 4th Concert,” Allentown Band, 7:30 p.m. July 4, Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks, 789 E. First St., Bethlehem. Free. Information: https://allentownband.com

“Classical View” is a column about classical music concerts, conductors and performers. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com