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Symphony in Color

By Mike Hall

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

At the Hatch Shell on this quintessential American holiday, the highlights were Arturo Sandoval’s spirited Cuban rhythms, Don McLean’s rendition of his classic “American Pie,” and a spectacular fireworks show.

On a warm day that threatened to rain, over 400,000 spectators jammed along the Esplanade, some taking their spots as early as 6 a.m., to hear Keith Lockhart’s Boston Pops and former MIT lecturer John S. Oliver’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The music capped off an exciting afternoon enlivened by the Shriners’ Parade in Back Bay and the MDC All-Star Marching Band’s performance along Storrow Drive.

Lockhart, resplendent in a blue shirt, red bow tie, and white suspenders, took to the stage around 8:00 p.m. to screams of “We love you, Keith!” from female admirers. In addition to the always popular sing-along portion of the show, the Pops scored a hit with both traditional renditions of old standards and innovative interpretations of the Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle.

Sandoval shines

Sandoval infused the show with passion during the evening’s first special guest performance. A four-time Grammy Award winner, Sandoval brought his fiery blend of jazz and traditional Latin music to the United States after emigrating from Cuba in 1990. His rhythms compelled many in the crowd to rise from their blankets and dance to his swaying trumpet. Sandoval’s greatest triumph of the evening came when teaming up with Broadway performer Linda Eder for “Man of La Mancha.”

But the most anticipated guest of the evening was Don McLean. After performing his hit “Vincent (Starry Starry Night),” he had the entire crowd singing and dancing to his 1971 classic “American Pie.” Unfortunately, the performance was abridged -- perhaps due to television constraints -- and several traditional lyrics, such as “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” were left out, leaving the audience not knowing quite what to sing.

Lockhart and the Pops finished the evening with a bang with the 1812 Overture, complemented by cannon blasts courtesy of 101st Field Artillery units from Brockton and Danvers as well as the first part of the fireworks display.

A thirty-minute fireworks show followed the concert. The crowd was treated to innovative designs, including intricate modelings of peace signs and smiley faces in the air.

Festival well attended

The festivities were well-attended, with crowds thronging both sides of the Charles River as well as the Harvard and Longfellow Bridges.

Groups from across the region descended on choice seats near the stage throughout the early morning. The front left corner seats belonged as usual to the Gloucester Crew, whose members have spent the Fourth on the Esplanade since 1972. Crew member Eileen Nickerson said that the group was armed against any invasion of its territory with two-way radios, blankets and American flags.

“We sent three of ours down around 10 [the night before],” Nickerson said. After encountering resistance, the reconnaissance team radioed for backup to help secure the area. The Crew finally established control of the territory around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning with the help of blankets and beach towels.

Out-of-state residents also piled into the crowded seating in front of the Hatch Shell. The Schinker and Peterson families came all the way from Youngstown, Ohio to watch the celebration. Debbie Schinker said the families enjoyed touring the city while waiting for the concert to begin.

“We love being in Boston. Where else is better on the Fourth of July?” said Schinker.

Sarah White and Jeff Frenkiewich, students at Keene State College in New Hampshire, used the Fourth to promote protection for wild moose alongside state highways. Bearing a blowup replication of a bumper sticker reading “Protect the Moose,” White said that the couple first became aware of the problem during protests around their school.

“We wanted to bring attention to the problem,” White said.