Music News & Reviews

Wichita Symphony pays tribute to Armed Forces, Greatest Generation

Opera star Samuel Ramey will narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” and “America the Beautiful” during the Wichita Symphony’s concert at Century II.
Opera star Samuel Ramey will narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” and “America the Beautiful” during the Wichita Symphony’s concert at Century II. The Wichita Eagle

Conductor and clarinetist Carl Topilow has led orchestras around the world, but he said his performance with the Wichita Symphony next weekend has him a bit starstruck.

Kansas-born, Wichita resident and international opera star Samuel Ramey will be joining Topilow and the symphony for “A Patriotic Salute” in the Saturday-night performance.

But Ramey won’t be singing – he will narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” and “America the Beautiful” during the performance at Century II.

“I’ve seen him on stage, but I’ve never met him,” Topilow said in a phone interview from his Cleveland home. “That’ll be very special, knowing he’s played all over the world.”

The concert is divided into two parts, “Salute to the Armed Forces” and “A Tribute to the Greatest Generation.”

The Wichita Symphony performance could also be considered as a salute to the movies, since much of the program – “The Patriot,” “Glory,” “Midway,” “Band of Brothers,” “Victory at Sea,” “Saving Private Ryan’s” “Hymn to the Fallen” – comes from film and television.

Many of those pieces were written by prolific composer John Williams – “He’s the best,” Topilow said.

The concert opens with the National Anthem, and also includes arrangements of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Colonel Bogey March” and “Stars and Stripes Forever,” with an encore of “God Bless America.”

Topilow will grab one of his multicolored spectrum of clarinets and lead the Wichita Symphony in a Glenn Miller medley.

“A Patriotic Salute” got its start in 2001, Topilow said, but before the wave of American pride after the tragedy of Sept. 11.

Topilow was asked to bring the National Repertory Orchestra, which he conducts, through Colorado by a request from the U.S. Army. The concert, and all of the “Patriotic Salutes” since then, have included a salute to current military and veterans in the audience.

“This is something near and dear to my heart, that I enjoy doing. It brings a special glow to people to be recognized, especially the armed services,” Topilow said.

At the Wichita Symphony concert, there will be a 10-percent discount for members of the military with ID.

Topilow, who founded and leads the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, said he enjoys the guest role, both as a conductor and performer. The only downside, he said, are 5 a.m. flights.

“The positives far outweigh the negatives,” he said. “Playing with orchestras is always a lot of fun. There’s always a lot of great stuff.”

‘A PATRIOTIC SALUTE’

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10

Where: Century II concert hall, 225 W. Douglas

What: A night of star-spangled favorites, led by clarinetist-guest conductor Carl Topilow, with narration by Samuel Ramey

Tickets: $30-$75, from wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or at the symphony box office

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