By Allie Jeppson
Lyrics such as “Oh say can you see,” and “I’m proud to be an American” are common melodies heard each year on July fourth. However, this year’s festivities will hear some different tunes as the music of the rock band Kansas rings through the Independence Day air during Logan, Utah’s second-annual celebration, Freedom Fire, held on July 3 in Utah State University’s Romney Stadium.
The event, similar to Provo’s Stadium of Fire, will feature the songs of Kansas in celebrating our nation’s birth. The event is unique from any other freedom celebration not only in its choice of band, but in the show’s diversity. Freedom Fire will also host a slew of other groups such as the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra, America Sings, and other youth companies, who will accompany the well-known band.
“We always like playing Utah,” Kansas Drummer Phil Ehart told Aggie BluePrint. “Utah has always been a favorite place for us to play because we’ve had fans there for so long.”
Kansas guitarist Rich Williams agreed.
“It’s beautiful out there and we’re looking forward to all that,” he said. “I love it there.”
Kansas, a group native to the state of their name, has produced eight gold albums, three sextuple platinum albums and the million-selling gold single “Dust in the Wind.“ They have been performing for almost 40 years with music that caters to the type of celebration that Freedom Fire event producers were looking for.
“I was looking for entertainment that would build on the success of last year … and appeal to a broad spectrum of audience,” Freedom Fire Executive Producer and USU Music Department Head, James Bankhead, said. “I thought Kansas was a great mix of those things.”
The American Festival Chorus and Orchestra is similarly excited to work with such diverse groups from year to year.
“I like the diversity of working with classical artists, country artists and pop artists,” said Craig Jessop, conductor of the American Festival Chorus and dean of USU’s Caine College of the Arts. “We’ll do Handel’s Messiah one month and back up Kansas the next month. … It’s definitely real world.”
The evening will open with the national anthem by the American Festival Chorus and John Jacobsen’s America Sings, which will move into a patriotic medley. Kansas will follow, backed by the American Festival Orchestra, with a 90-minute show of their own, original songs, after which the youth and American Festival Chorus groups will rejoin the stage for a tribute to the United States veterans. A firework show will conclude the night’s entertainment.
“Playing with an orchestra is always different because all of a sudden you’ve got 55 [plus] people in your band,” Ehart said. “It’s always a different sound than what we normally have … [but] many times we look back there and see them having a good time and it’s infectious.”
Though the music will be fun, we must not forget our purpose, Jessop said. “This is to celebrate the United States of America,” he said. “From sea to shining sea and from coast to coast … we as Americans will be united in celebrating the birth of our nation and the freedoms that our nation continues to enjoy for over 250 years.”
“This is an amazing country and we have an amazing heritage,” Jessop added. “We can’t ever forget that.”