PORTLAND – Not only will Portland’s fireworks go on this Fourth of July despite city budget cuts, they will be punctuated by patriotic music from the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

The businesspeople who are funding this year’s fireworks on the Eastern Promenade are expected to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. today to announce that a PSO concert will be part of the festivities.

The full orchestra — 60 to 70 members — will play about 90 minutes of patriotic tunes and Americana music before the first rocket is fired. Then it will play more heart-pounding music during the 40-minute fireworks show, said Robert Moody, music director of the PSO.

The concert will be free and simulcast on the radio stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Moody said.

“We’ll end (the pre-fireworks concert) with ‘The 1812 Overture,’ and that will signal the start of the fireworks,” Moody said Wednesday.

“Then we’ll play ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ and John Philip Sousa marches as the fireworks go on. We are so excited to be a part of this,” he said.

Because of a budget crunch, the PSO canceled its “Independence Pops” concerts last summer, ending a years-long tradition of playing outdoor concerts around the Fourth of July. Inclement weather and other factors made the shows too great a “financial risk” to continue, Moody said.

The free concert this July 4 will be funded by private money.

In early April, after the city announced that the fireworks would be canceled because of budget cuts, a group of businesspeople announced that they would provide the $45,000 needed to put on the show.

The original group included Jon Jennings, president and general manager of Portland’s NBA Development League basketball team, the Maine Red Claws; Jack Quirk, owner of Quirk Chevrolet; Michael Dubyak, chairman and CEO of Wright Express; and Richard Connor, CEO of MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel daily newspapers, the weekly Coastal Journal in Bath, and their respective Web sites.

Jennings said that when they decided to fund the fireworks, they agreed to think of ways to “enhance” the celebration. Having the PSO provide the music was one of their first ideas, he said.

And the PSO was glad to get involved.

“When we made the sad decision not to do the ‘Independence Pops’ last summer, this is exactly what we hoped for,” Moody said. “The community has come forward and said, ‘We value the fireworks as an iconic tradition, and we value the wonderful Pops concerts on July 4, too.’ “

Jennings wouldn’t say how much the PSO’s members will be paid, but he said additional corporate backers of the fireworks show will be announced soon, and that the group continues to look for more. Individual donations to help fund the event are welcome as well.

The Fourth of July celebration will be called “The Stars and Stripes Spectacular,” and the PSO’s performance will be “Patriotic Pops,” Jennings said.

The PSO will play on a stage to be built in the upper parking lot on Cutter Street, which leads from the top of the Eastern Prom down to the public boat launch and East End Beach. Tables seating 10 people each will be set up near the stage and sold for $1,000 per table, parking included, as a way to add to the fundraising.

At today’s press conference, to be held on the Eastern Prom, the group will talk about the formation of a foundation to oversee the fireworks in the future, the creation of a website for the event, continuing fundraising and the city’s role in the event, Jennings said.

Private funding will pay any costs incurred by the city, such as traffic control and street closings, he said. Details such as access to the event, and when streets leading to the Eastern Prom will be closed, are still being worked out, Jennings said.

Moody said concert details are being worked out as well, including whether any vocalists will perform with the orchestra. Moody expects to announce the PSO’s full musical program for the event on June 2.

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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