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Review: Utah Symphony inspires awe at Patriotic Celebration concert

Conductor Michael Krajewski leads the Utah Symphony in their Patriotic Celebration concert at Red Butte Garden. (Jordan Hafford/City Journals)

By Jordan Hafford | [email protected]


With a deep and dissonant thrum, the Utah Symphony’s musical artists warmed their instruments in anticipation of igniting the flame of patriotism among the crowd just two days before Independence Day.  

As would be expected, the Symphony began with a prelude of the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” to stir the embers. The sound resonated surprisingly well in the hills of Red Butte Garden. Nature did not seem to pose an issue for the acoustics.

Hugh Panaro, a vocalist who played a major role in the performance that evening, introduced himself by reciting the Preamble to the Constitution while the symphony played softly in the background. While this did intend to evoke an Americana-infused adrenaline rush, it came across as overacted and corny

Shortly after this, however, the music swelled into a lovely, melodic rendition of “America the Beautiful,” during which Panaro sang the lyrics. While this song itself certainly holds up the melodic and lyrical properties of an American classic, the symphony itself seemed to outshine the vocalist, especially at the moment of climax when the mic gracelessly failed.

The most inspiring moment of the night occurred when the symphony played a medley tribute to The Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army with their theme songs. Any past or present members of the military were invited to stand during their branch’s song.

Following this show of patriotism was “Give My Regards to Broadway,” along with Panaro’s vocals, which seemed like a poor choice for keeping up the passionate momentum and almost flattened the force of the show. The melody and lyrics of the popular musical theater piece were a soulless comparison to so many others in the vast repertoire of Americana classics.

Conversely, the song “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Misérables” bolstered the effect that the military tribute medley made in reminding audience members of the sacrifice that our military personnel make on behalf of the American people.

The upbeat and peppy performance of both “Yankee Doodle” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” restored any waning sense of patriotism. Shortly afterward, the spirit of the American West was captured with selections from old western films.

The performance ended with a delightful medley consisting of classic songs. And the encore performance of “Stars and Stripes Forever” was full of patriotic exuberance.  

Apart from some of the misplaced song selections and mawkish monologues, the Utah Symphony did not fail to awaken a sense of patriotism through a stunning aural production of America’s musical heritage.