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Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on September 6th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 27

The Lompoc Pops Orchestra remembers 9/11 with music of America


The Lompoc Pops Orchestra has a longstanding tradition of performing on Mondays, and for this year’s season-opening concert, the date fell on Sept. 11.

Instead of shying away from that somber day, the orchestra will perform a concert to honor everyone who was lost in the attack on the World Trade Center and also celebrate what unites all Americans, the orchestra’s artistic director and conductor, Brian Asher Alhadeff, told the Sun.

“I try to have it be patriotic when the season opens every year,” Alhadeff said, “but Monday this year is Sept. 11, which is a kind of hallowed date in American history.”

The Lompoc Pops Orchestra—pictured here at its last concert, which featured a collaboration with a country band—will perform a collection of patriotic and American music on Sept. 11, including an opening color guard ceremony and later George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue.”

The program will begin with a serious sense of honor, he explained, as the Vandenberg Air Force Base Color Guard will present the American and Californian flags, marching in to the concert space at the First United Methodist Church to a piece by John Philip Sousa.

Ordering the color guard will be retired Vandenberg Master Chief Sgt. Norman Marous, Alhadeff said, who will say a few words as well. While the stars and stripes are presented, the orchestra will play the national anthem while everyone sings. Alhadeff has conducted “The Star-Spangled Banner” countless times, he said, but he actually composed his own arrangement of the anthem for the concert.

“I would never consider myself a professional composer, but there are certain things I strive for in my arrangement,” he said. “When I conduct my national anthem, I turn my back to the orchestra and conduct the audience, so when I arranged my version, I wanted to conduct something that the audience wouldn’t be thrown off by, something they could sing to.”

After the color guard proceeds, the concert will begin with a series of rousing patriotic tunes. There will be full orchestra renditions of “The Armed Forces Salute, “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty March,” and “The Midway March.”

Alhadeff said he hopes to elicit all the nostalgia of those classic American tunes, but also present some that are a little lesser known than the usual pieces everyone hears.

“I’m a real champion of John Philip Sousa and Leroy Anderson, those two composers,” he said. “They’re so stereotypically American, but unfortunately, we’ve sort of pigeon-holed them on two pieces, but there’s a whole repertoire of music that has been ignored.”

The rest of the concert will also include classic American repertoire, the bread and butter of the Lompoc Pops Orchestra. The whole point of the orchestra, which is modeled after the Boston Pops, is to celebrate American music, Alhadeff explained, like works composed for musical theater. There are selections of Guys and Dolls and South Pacific in the program as well.


Catch the show
The Lompoc Pops Orchestra presents a concert in tribute to the victims of 9/11 on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 925 North F St., Lompoc. Cost is $20, $5 for full-time students, free for kids 12 and under. More info: 735-6463 or

A big feature in the first half will include guest pianist Matthew Harikian, who will join the orchestra to perform George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” which he premiered in New York City in 1924. Alhadeff explained how Gershwin was able to paint a sonic picture of an early 20th century bustling American metropolis with that piece.

“If I was in New York and I came to see that concert, I would say it’s a New York sound, but since I’m in California, I would broaden the definition and say it captures the American city,” he said. “It’s the birth of the 20th century in a mechanized, motorized community, with a layer of good ole jazz blue over the thing.”

Alhadeff said that while he wanted to bring notes of somber respect to the Lompoc Pops Orchestra’s concert on Sept. 11, he didn’t want it to be just that but also a celebration of what it means to be an American.

“We’re going to use this day to remember that loss and tragedy, but we’re also going to use it as a reminder that we are a strong nation that comes together through the arts and what makes us beautiful,” he said. “And as a conductor, there is a lot of American music that makes us beautiful.” 

Managing Editor Joe Payne is at ease listening to both Sousa and Gershwin. Contact him at

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