Fourth of July Music

Fourth of July Music

This year, Yvonne and I spent the Fourth of July in Chicago, visiting our daughter Maggie and our travel buddies John and Rita Meier. One of the highlights was a holiday concert featuring patriotic music at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.   

The Pritzker, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is a brushed stainless-steel bandshell reminiscent of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain. As I settled in, I found myself reminded of a very different concert space I enjoyed during my years growing up. It was the Hollywood Bowl.   

The Bowl was one of the first places my family visited when we moved to LA. We sat near the top, which meant a lag between what the musicians played and what we heard. We didn’t care. The sound was wonderful.    

A few years later, my friend Phil Freshman landed a job as an usher there and would sneak my friends and me into concerts. If we asked Phil how he managed it, he would tell us, “I know the Bowl. I know its people.”

After Yvonne and I were married, we would go each summer with our friends Jerry and Niki Savin to the Playboy Jazz Festival, also held at the Bowl. Somehow Jerry managed to get great seats each year, often just behind those of Hugh Heffner and his Playmates.   

My most vivid memory of the Bowl took place, like the Pritzker concert, on the Fourth of July. In those days, the LA Philharmonic would close the concert with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, for orchestra and military band. For two years I was part of the show, as a member of the 562nd Air National Guard Band.

It was one thing to hear that beautiful music from the audience, and another entirely to be on stage, playing it. Our big moment came at the end—you could tell because the orchestra musicians inserted earplugs—when the piece was accompanied by the loudest fireworks you ever heard. 

My ears rang for weeks, but I didn’t care. I’d celebrated the Fourth of July with music. And last week, at the Pritzker, I did it again.


Blog: Music