Portland Harbor never looked or sounded better than it did Sunday night, as Robert Moody conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra in a patriotic pops concert that provided the prelude and backdrop for this year’s fireworks show.

As the orchestra moved through its program and the sun set over Back Cove, hundreds of small boats bobbed off East End Beach joining tens of thousands of onlookers perched on the Eastern Promenade.

These were the fireworks that almost didn’t happen, when city officials, facing a tough year financially, trimmed $45,000 from their budget that would have gone to pay for rockets and shells. But a group of local business executives jumped in and guaranteed that the show would go on. Others joined in, raising enough money to add the appearance by the PSO. While the donors were given appreciative applause Sunday, the orchestra was the star of the night performing a program filled with John Phillips Souza marches, classical favorites and popular songs from musical theater.

Many thousands of Portlanders have never bought a ticket to hear the symphony and will never get to see a performance by Portland Stage Company, Maine’s largest professional theater organization.

But they were able to hear the orchestra play exciting music and see the actors read the Declaration of Independence for free, turning a predictable annual event into something truly special.

The Fourth of July in Portland served to remind everyone in attendance what an unusual place this city is, for its natural setting, its historic parks and for the talented people who live and work here.

This was about more than just fireworks, and everyone connected to this event can be proud.