Fireworks lit up the sky over the nation’s Capitol on July 4th as the nation celebrated its 237th birthday. In another flawless broadcast PBS has given ample proof why the network is vital to the nation. The best fireworks in the world gave the Capitol 4th 2013 the perfect ending. Host Tom Bergeron completed his second year as MC for the event, “The best fireworks in America,” he said. Jackie Evancho sang The Star Spangled Banner with such grace and dignity even Francis Scott Key would have been proud.
Barry Manilow completed his second appearance in the concert and was introduced as the showman of our generation. Manilow opened with his classic Could it be Magic. “It’s great to be back here for a Capitol 4th,” he said. Then he did a beautiful rendition of I Write the Songs. Moving about the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of a teenager Manilow sang I Can’t Smile Without You as kids of all ages sang along with him. A nice touch was having some audience members sing along with him directly into his microphone. Manilow gave a great performance.
Motown: The Musical opened with the Supremes classic Stop! In the Name of Love! and brought back precious memories for those who purchased the song when it was released on February 8, 1965. The Broadway performers captured the style and elegance of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard who recorded the number one hit in January of 1965. The recreation of the classic Temptations hit My Girl continued the journey down memory lane. PBS did not forget the baby boomers this year. When the performers sang Martha and the Vandellas Dancing in the Street time stood still and the crowd was back in July of 1964 when the song first hit the streets of America.
Darren Criss was joined by 20 backup singers to do a rendition of the Isley Brothers Shout. His performance would have made John Belushi feel right at home. The crowd moved and danced like the cast of the film that made the song famous across the land in 1978. Evancho returned with Sir Elton John’s classic Can You Feel the Love Tonight from the Lion King in 1994. With the voice of an angel the young singer brought embraces from lovers across the lawn.
Bergeron introduced a video presentation from famous director Steven Spielberg. The director who gave America Duel in 1975 and ET in 1982 introduced Composer John Williams who led the National Symphony Orchestra in the performance of a musical selection from the film Lincoln with a trumpet solo by Christopher Martin. Spielberg said that Lincoln held the nation together in one of its darkest hours and saved the nation. He told the audience that 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Bergeron called the film the definitive film on the Lincoln presidency.
Megan Hilty did a special dedication to all of the men and women who were wounded in action defending the freedom that Americans enjoy today. “With us tonight are some of the brave men and women who were wounded in action defending our freedom that we enjoy today. I would like to dedicate this song to you and to all of the heroes who have watched over us,” Hilty said. She gave a touching rendition of George and Ira Gershwin’s classic Someone to Watch Over Me. Following her performance Bergeron stood with some of the first responders from the Boston Marathon bombings and thanked them and their fellow first responders as the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation.
“Our next performer’s new single Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take US Down) and if you download it 100 percent is going to charitable causes,” the host said. He then introduced the legendary Neil Diamond. Backed by a full gospel choir Diamond gave a passionate performance of his new song dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Diamond assured the Americans that terrorists would never take us down. He said Americans would stand their ground and fight for their freedom. The crowd went wild with cheers after his performance.
American Idol winner in 2013 Candice Glover performance of her first release since winning the competition I Am Beautiful, was presented to the nation with a depth of meaning and sincerity that held the crowd in appreciate of her gifts. Season 10 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery gave an equally evocative performance of his hit See You Tonight.
Manilow said it was an honor to share his songs at the concert. He closed his performance with a beautifully performed Let Freedom Ring with The Choral Arts Society of Washington. Manilow was spectacular. The greatest fireworks in the world closed out the concert as Maestro Jack Everly and the National Symphony Orchestra performed the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture as the fireworks exploded over the Washington night sky. Megan Hilty was joined by The United States Army Presidential Salute Battery, The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band and the Military District of Washington, D.C., in a final tribute of patriotic songs that ended with her rendition of God Bless America.
Each year the concert gets better. However the work of the Capitol Police in making the concert safe should never be underrated. It is only when things do not go right that the press normally reports on police conduct. The excellent security provided by the Capitol Police and Park Rangers makes it possible for Americans to come together without chaos and disaster. This 4th of July weekend was enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people because of the planning, screening, and surveillance by the law enforcement community. While the streets were aflame with riots and protest in Africa, Americans calmly sat on the West Lawn of the Capitol giving thanks to God for America.
The business and service organizations that provide support for the concert enable Americans to gather from across the nation to watch the world’s greatest performers for free. The support from companies include The Boeing Company and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The National Park Service, PBS, and the Department of the Army make the concert available to millions. American Airlines provides air travel while the contributions of viewers of PBS also contribute to the success of the concert.
In a conversation with the PBS Director of Communications before the concert it was hoped that the concert and broadcast would go smoothly. Well it was a hope that became a reality. The concert broadcast was perfect.
The 2014 Capitol 4th concert will be held on July 4th, 2014. It is an event that every American should experience live once. Mark your calendars for a great experience.
Go to www.pbs.org for a full list of PBS programs.