The Austin Chronicle

Austin Symphony Orchestra July Fourth Concert & Fireworks

No explosions in the sky, no music on the ground

By Robert Faires, July 1, 2011, Arts

Somebody break the news to Tchaikovsky: He won't get his cannonade across Lady Bird Lake this Monday. If you hadn't heard, the Austin Symphony Orchestra has scrubbed not only its traditional blast of Independence Day pyrotechnics – another victim of the extreme drought, as are all public fireworks displays in Austin and Travis County – but also the concert that precedes it. So no orchestral rendition of our National Anthem. No invigorating John Philip Sousa marches. And no "1812 Overture" punctuated by the Texas National Guard Salute Battery's 75-millimeter howitzer bursts.

Thus ends an uninterrupted run of July Fourth orchestral music that goes all the way back to the summer the first Star Wars was released. Over that third of a century, ASO's holiday celebration has come to draw up to 100,000 people. Of course, those climactic explosions in the sky have been a big draw, and it was expected that without them, attendance would diminish. That was a concern of event sponsors, including title sponsor H-E-B, which revised its donation downward from $75,000 to $50,000 after the fireworks ban was announced. With ASO unable to conceive of an alternative post-show spectacle that would attract crowds the way fireworks would and facing the prospect that it would wind up paying for the concert out of its own pocket, ASO leaders elected to cancel the whole shebang. Presumably, a wetter 2012 would mean a return of both fireworks and concert, but for now your best bet to hear Pyotr Ilyich's booming artillery on the Fourth of July (and what does that overture have to do with American independence again?) is through iTunes.

However, if you're just jonesing for a free classical concert by ASO on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, you needn't wait another year or even a month. The symphony's other free summer outdoor music tradition is under way and in no danger of being axed over a lack of precipitation. The Hartman Family Foundation Concerts in the Park series, currently in its ninth year, offers a different program of classical music, jazz, and pop performed live almost every Sunday evening throughout the summer in front of the Long Center's City Terrace, and you don't pay a cent. The next one takes place July 10, 7:30pm, and features short compositions by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Elgar, Dvorák, Schubert, and you'll even get a little taste of Tchaikovsky. For more information, visit

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