We celebrated our hometown's history yesterday evening at a concert by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra at the College of Marine Studies' Virden Center, here in Lewes.
The concert was part of a year-long celebration of the 375th anniversary of our town, which began in 1631 when a group of (Dutch) Europeans attempted to set-up a trading post that they called Zwaanendael.
From that small, and ultimately futile beginning (the settlers failed to get along well with the established population and were eventually attacked and destroyed), flow almost four centuries of history. Based on that settlement, we lay claim to being the First Town in the First State. It all started here (You're welcome).
We used to have a symphony concert in Lewes every summer. For some years the concert was part of a larger Summer Arts Festival which included some great acts. One year, before the girls were born, we got to see the folk-singer Odetta.
A feature of the festival each year was a pops concert by the Delaware Symphony. It always ended with a rendition of the 1812 Overture, performed with a battery of historic iron cannon blasting away in the finale. If you have never heard the 1812 Overture with real cannon, you are missing a wonderful musical experience.
I still remember the first time we attended the concert. It was held at that time at Cape Henlopen State Park and as the show started, a thick fog rolled in from the Atlantic. By the time the cannon were fired, we could no longer see the orchestra. The cannons' muzzle-flashes lit the fog all around us. It was like being inside the thunder-head cloud during a major thunderstorm.
This weekend's concert was in a large field alongside the Virden Center. We all brought lawn chairs and blankets. Many people enjoyed picnic dinners and gatherings of friends and family.
Karen and I packed a light supper of pita and hummus with carrots and zucchini. We sat and chatted with Andy and Lynn, who joined us for the show, and then sat back to enjoy the music.
The evening was fine. The week's heavy heat and humidity finally broke with an evening breeze, clear skies, and a hint of thunderstorms on the northern horizon. It was perfect evening to put your feet up and listen to the music.
The Delaware Symphony has new leadership since the days when they used to come down for a concert each summer. The program was still "Pops," but I think it was a more adventurous set than had been the case in the past. They started with Fanfare for the Common Man, which Karen and I both love, and continued with a set of variations on America by Charles Ives. Ives was one of America's first great composers and his approach to music -- standing it on its head, warping, twisting and resculpting familiar tunes -- appeals to my musical tastes.
There were also Sousa marches, but they threw in a Sousa dance number, described by the conductor as a "Victorian Tango." That's an interesting notion, isn't it?
The 1812 Overture was well-played, even without the cannons, and they finished with a traditional Stars and Stripes Forever, guest-conducted by the Delaware Secretary of State, whose budget helped support the event.
After a brief pause to let the sun settle, there was a fine fireworks finale. A good time was had by all.