Calland Metts (left) and Sarah Lawrence sang a tender duet.
Even with unseasonably cool weather, the "American Fanfare" performance at Concerts on the Square was a perfect prelude to the July 4 holiday. Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra music director Andrew Sewell led a vibrant concert of nostalgic works that celebrated patriotism and community.
After an emotionally stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," the orchestra performed Aaron Copland's "Our Town," a suite that references Thornton Wilder's original play and subsequent movie. The ensemble's interpretation was serene, with a nice balance of strings and winds. It brought about the sort of calm and reflective quiet one would expect from music based upon a sleepy town and its hymns.
The group segued into a sampling of classic show tunes sung by the husband-and-wife team of Sarah Lawrence (soprano) and Calland Metts (tenor). Lawrence sang a velvety version of George Gershwin's “Summertime" from Porgy & Bess, expertly conveying the lyrics' languor with sultry and soulful phrasing.
Metts and Lawrence showed off their chemistry in a tender rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera. Their encore, "Tonight" from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, was as spontaneous as the young love the tale expresses. Lawrence and Metts' freeing use of rubato and accelerando lent a dance-like quality to their performance.
More Copland was served up in the lively, brass-filled "Fanfare for the Common Man," a piece originally commissioned in 1942 to help with the war effort. Seasoned listeners may have recognized this theme from the fourth movement of Copland's Third Symphony or from one of many popular movies. The orchestra then honored U.S. servicemen and women during Bob Lowden's "Armed Forces Salute." It was heartening to see so many individuals rise as an announcer called out all the service branches, asking veterans to make themselves known.
The program literally ended with a bang in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." Ascending and descending scales in the strings were electrifying, and swelling cadences tugged the emotions. By the time the famed cannon section rolled around, thousands of concertgoers were on their feet, and they remained standing until the show came to a bouncing close with John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."