Philly used to be an empty metropolis on summer holiday weekends, but this weekend thousands of Philadelphians and visitors remained in town for the 4th celebrations and feast for the senses. At Penn’s Landing to see Danail Rachev conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in their concert of patriotic music and symphonic show pieces. The multi-tiered amphitheater set against land and sea vistas on the Delaware during a magnificent sunset.

Even though the crowd never stopped milling about (stop that milling & definitely don‘t text & mill during the performance!) Still, easy to ignore when there was such a cool vibe of social diversity.

The musical highlights included Rachev’s crisp punctuation during Leonard Bernstein‘s overture to Candide and quicksilver fanfares of Aaron Copland‘s ballet score to Rodeo. The finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with it’s crescendo cannons that were provided by a ship on the Delaware. Couldn’t help but wonder how many in the crowd knew that these composers were gay men.

The emotional highlight was the patriotic songs sung by AVA alum Jeffrey Halili and the Armed Forces Salute with the service men and women in the audience standing to be recognized. Halili, a tenor, appropriately vaulted his voice with unfussy passion.

Then the fireworks began, fired from a small boat and cued to recorded classical music that just pierced the night. Cinematic when a fire-diamond and sapphire waterfalls was accompanying George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. As I turned and faced the crowd I noticed everything and everyone was completely still. Gershwin’s symphonic city epic never ceases to inspire.

Last night, across town on the Ben Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art premiere Philly fusion band The Roots just tore down the open air house. Earlier in the day during his programming of WWII music, WRTI jazz dean Bob Perkins playing stellar sets including the Andrew Sisters version of Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing if you Ain’t Got That Swing and coincidently the Roots turned the song into a jazz- funk scorcher that had the front crowd pulsing bumper to bumper despite the heat.