The last installment of "A Capitol Fourth" in this millennium filled the air with music and fireworks last night as the National Symphony Orchestra and a parade of stars saluted the holiday with a concert on the Capitol's West Lawn.
The event, broadcast live on PBS, was a lively program that borrowed from hit musicals, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael and Motown. The whole shebang was topped off with the NSO playing John Philip Sousa favorites and (what else?) Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture featuring the expected thunder of cannons and followed by the rockets' red glare of the fireworks show.
The orchestra, in one of its many free summer concerts, was directed by Erich Kunzel. (Billed as "America's superstar pops conductor," he leads the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and is pops adviser to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.) The NSO's contribution centered on a rousing arrangement--heavy on the drums--from John Williams's music for "Star Wars."
Host for the event was actor-vocalist Barry Bostwick, currently New York's mayor on ABC's "Spin City."
A troupe of guest performers filled the temporary Capitol lawn stage. Soulful saxophonist Kenny G played samples from his latest album, and country singer Jo Dee Messina added to the glitzy spectacle with her usual energetic delivery and fiery approach to familiar pop fare.
Now known as the Temptations Revue, Richard Street, Ali Woodson and Damon Harris were joined by Perry Moore and Elfigo Goodum in a reprise of the Motown group's repertoire that included "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "My Girl."
Nell Carter, whose career stretches all the way from Broadway and the nightclub circuit to Hollywood, sang a version of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" that shone almost as brightly as the fireworks.
Longtime chanteuse Maureen McGovern sailed through a medley of Carmichael's best-known songs, including "Stardust," "Georgia on My Mind," "Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" and "Heart and Soul."
Former senator and astronaut John Glenn made an appearance, as did the Choral Arts Society of Washington. The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets provided a flashy counterpoint to the evening's festivities.