Kansas City audiences celebrated Memorial Day with class, joining the memories of the past with the present, when the Liberty Memorial, the only official WWI Memorial served as the centerpiece for the Kansas City Symphony’s traditional salute to our military heroes.
“It is an honor to host the 11th Annual Celebration at the Station,” Robert Regnier, Chairman of the Union Station Board, said. “For nearly 100 years, this cherished community landmark remains a symbol of civic pride and evokes the true Kansas City spirit. Union Station serves as a bustling civic center where science, culture, history, transportation and entrepreneurship intersect. “
With the Liberty Memorial at one end, historic and grand Union Station behind the symphony, Music Director Michael Sterns led the symphony with a plethora American patriotic music and a few classical gems. The KC Symphony with guests Oleta Adams and Musicorps, among others, performed an awe inspiring free concert to the delight of 50,000 live fans and uncounted TV viewers watching live from the comforts of their homes.
“It is well worth going and the music is great,” Susan Keeney, regular attendee, said. “It is an annual family event for us. It’s been going on for 11 years and we have been there for 10 years. The fireworks are super and it is all free.
“This year the feature music group was Musicorps, a rehab program for Wounded returning soldiers. It is a program out of Walter Reed. The young USMC sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and duet of ‘Hallelujah’ with Oleta Adams brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful.”
The performance included a sing-a-long to American classics like ‘Yankee Doodle,’ “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “America the Beautiful,” and others. Oleta Adams performed in both acts and never sang so touchingly as she did on a piece with Musicorps. And, then, just when people might have expected the end, Sterns and the Symphony tore into the “1812 Overture,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “ ” while fireworks burst higher, brighter, louder, and more spectacular than before.
“The concert was very moving” Patricia Thomas, regular attendee, said, “especially the young soldiers who had met in a hospital while recovering from their injuries. The young soldier who had lost his legs sang a very touching Hallelujah. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the audience. I don’t know why but this year seemed to be more moving than the past. The fireworks were glorious as always.”
“The audience is so enthusiastic; we couldn’t ask for more. This has become a really important part of our season,” Michael Stern, Conductor, said. “First of all, the idea to say ‘thank you’ for 50,000 plus, friends, families, neighbors is fantastic. It is a fabulous community. The other thing, we worked really hard to make this concert about something else besides picnics and barbeques.”
“It’s important that we remind ourselves of what that is. Frankly, I don’t think there is a better way to do that other than music. Music, ceremony and a sense of community is a way to remember the significance of this holiday,” Stern continued.
The Memorial Day concert come near the end of the Kansas City Symphony’s season and illustrates the talent of the individuals that make up the orchestra.
“One of the great things about this show is that it focuses on the orchestra,” Frank Bryne, said. “We have some special guests and we are proud to have them on our stage. It is a great sense of pride for us to give this gift to the community and connect through music.”
The connection rang true loud and clear, highlighted with the two special guests, Adams and Musicorps. Their numbers enhanced the tone of the celebration.
“This is our gift for Memorial Day. You know, Oleta Adams is right here in Kansas City. The Musicorps group you are about to meet are incredible, incredible souls. They are witnesses to what the horror of war is and the real meaning of Memorial Day. To have them here with us is very, very special,” Stern said.
Musicorps members are: Lance Corporal Tim Donley USMC, Vocals; Lance Corporal Josh Cawthorn, USMC, Guitar; Specialist Nathan Kalwicki, US ARMY, Guitar] Corporal Marcus Dandrea, USMC, Bass; Greg Loman, Musicorps Teaching Artist, Guitar; Arthur Bloom, Musicorps Founder and Director, Piano; James Barnes, Kansas City Spirit (world premiere).
“Oleda Adams was fabulous as well. She, too sang some very moving songs. Her voice is, itself very moving. It all touched everyone’s heart and soul,” Patricia Thomas concluded.”
The firework display behind the WWI Museum and Liberty Memorial Obelisk reminded viewers of the sacrifices made by all veterans to secure the freedoms cherished today.