Monday, July 10, 2006

Musical Evening at the Village

Walking into Greenfield Village is like taking a step back in time. And a large step it would have to be too; over 100 years. As a family, we have always enjoyed our time spent there, and favorite stop being the old farm house and adjacent barns. But this time was even more special and memorable then ever before. To start off with we were blessed to be able to accompany our good friends, the Eddy Family, and our objective – to enjoy an evening of music and fireworks with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on the field of Walnut Grove.

The authentic historical dress of those who "work" at the Village have always been one of my favorite highlights, and also at times a source of inspiration. Nor was I to be disappointed Monday evening. The array of historical costumes was wonderful, beginning with an amazing, if not somewhat startling outfit worn by an aristocratic looking lady whom we happened upon soon after entering the gates. Her extremely patriotic dress, (1870's style) was simply gorgeous, with yards and yards of ruffles in red, white and blue. The poor thing looked like she should be stifling under all that material, but we were informed later that actually she was quite comfortable, due to the fact that all her underpinning, (corset, petticoat, etc) were made of cotton.

As we were swept along by the crowds of streaming people, Grace had to be quick with her camera as she tried to snap pictures of the various historically dressed people who we passed by. One such person, (who ended up being an unfortunate blur through the camera lens) was a lovely lady dressed in an exquisite 1914 Tea Gown. Layers of delicate white lawn, intricate tucks, lace inserts, and a large be-ribboned hat completed her costume. We were also escorted along by a few stylish gentleman, who careened precariously through the crowds perched high atop the appropriately named High-Wheelers. (circa 1860) The mounting and dismounting of those lofty cycles was quite a feat to behold, requiring the intended rider to have a good sense of balance and be somewhat acrobatic in nature.

A group of singers, dressed in appropriate '20's style clothing serenaded us as we made the descent down to Walnut Grove. And an impressive Banjo player, fingers flying at an incredible speed, stood under a shady tree, to entertain us further. (Later in the evening we heard him give an amazing rendition of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag.)

Walnut Grove was a colorful sea of blankets, chairs and their occupants. We carefully made our way toward a vacant spot, about ¾ of the way down the grove. A little far from the huge pavilion and stage perhaps, but later that night, it proved to be one of the best seats in the house!

A tasty picnic supper, provided by the Eddy's, was the next thing on the agenda. Then we all eagerly awaited the arrival of the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Band. We heard them before we saw them, a faint beating of drums in the distance, and the high airy sounds of the fife. They came marching along the road that ran beside the field, a '76 American flag and the band's own standard leading the way. As they came closer the fifers sharp swirling, and the harsh snapping of the drums filled the air with stirring music. A group of women and children, in authentic colonial dress followed the band with jugs of water to refresh the tired lips of the fife players.

Enter the Dodworth Saxhorn Band!
"A unique group, commited to bringing the musical past to life, using only antique saxhorns, built between 1840 and 1880." So said our program, and that little band out did itself! All members, including the two astounding vocalists, were dressed in clothing from the civil war era, and provided a wonderful program of music and oration from that time period.

The special and exciting attraction of the evening came in the form of a B-17 Flying Fortress from WWII that flew several laps around the field, and was received with many cheers and applause as it roared by!

Finally! The members of the DSO are making their way onto the stage! Everyone is settled, and here comes the concert master! *Applause* (tuning time…oh dear, someone can't find their note!) And now, Conductor Thomas Wilkins! **Much Applause** We have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Wilkins before, and knew we were in for a night of enjoyment! The first selection was a rousing arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner." (To which we all sang at the top of our lungs.) Pieces from Shostakovich, Sousa, and Leroy Anderson's fun "Bugler's Holiday", filled the first half of the program.

Then followed two songs by the talented vocalist Kendall Pennington. This 11 year old's voice was beautiful, and unbelievable as she sang 'You're a Grand Ol' Flag', 'Over the Rainbow', and later in the evening, 'America the Beautiful'.

After a short intermission, we heard the thrilling American Fantasy by Herbert, and then, the piece we had all been waiting for, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with cannons! On the ridge, directly across the field from us, sat three original 1876 Hotchkiss cannons! The noise they made was stupendous! Three full volleys from them lit up the sky and sent echoes crashing off the trees.

And that wasn't the end! The orchestra started back up with Sousa's 'Stars and Stripes Forever', and continued on with many other patriotic pieces, while colorful (and noisy) fireworks exploded in the sky above the cannons!

A truly thrilling finale to a truly thrilling day!