Sweet Freedom’s Song

  • Thursday, September 12, 2013

The crowd gathers to watch the Summerville Community Orchestra play in Azalea Park for Tuesday’s Celebration of Freedom event. The hour-long concert had a patriotic theme. TAYLOR GRIFFITH/JOURNAL SCENE

Flutes piped breezily into the warm air, followed by a few toots from the French horns and the thrum of a cello as the last few musicians scampered to their seats. As if in a fairy tale, the bells of Town Hall rang 8 o’clock and conductor Alex Agrest hurried to the podium.
It was time to start.
With one wave of his baton the Star Spangled Banner leapt off the pages of music and out into Azalea Park. The gathering crowd stood and raised their hands over their hearts. As the sun set, the music of the Summerville Community Orchestra rose.
It was a night of remembrance, a night of honor, a night of thanks, but most of all it was a night to celebrate our country and its most defining characteristic: freedom.
Tuesday’s Celebration of Freedom event was held to commemorate more than just freedom though; the date was chosen to also pay homage to the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The speakers preceding the orchestra touched on all of the subjects – the attacks, the international community and freedom.
Pinewood Preparatory School senior Logan Dwyer started them off.
“Music forms for us an international language,” he said.
Mayor Bill Collins continued.
“None of us will ever forget where we were that day when 3,000 American citizens lost their lives.”
Jed Suddeth, the chair of Pinewood’s Board of Visitors, followed: “We need to embrace the desire to interact in our international atmosphere.”
Caleb Stevens, a fellow at the Republic of Liberia Land Commission, concluded with remarks on his experiences with all of the above.
As an advisor to the Liberian government, Stevens has had to encounter the interaction of all three subjects during his three-year term working there.
As a young country filled with power struggles, war, and internal conflict, he has optimism for its future.
“There is a silver lining,” he said. “In the absence of a functional government, the Liberians have successfully formed communities. They are trying to carve out some freedom for themselves if their government won’t give it to them.
“I hope when I return to Liberia in the future, freedom won’t be a motto, but a reality.”
And then the music began, concluding the event in a way no words could.
American tunes of all varieties, from Glen Miller’s “Little Brown Jug” to the Civil War classic “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” filled the night air.
The orchestra played a tribute to all of the military branches and veterans in the crowd stood to be recognized.
Parents taught their children words to “God Bless America” when they were encouraged to sing along.
Sitting in the audience, a feeling of pride was overwhelming.
The concert came to a close at 9 p.m. and concluded with a standing ovation. As the words of the benediction began to fade over the speakers, the crowd dispersed.
And for those who stood to listen, they would have heard a new music in the place of the melodies being played mere minutes before.
It was the music of leaves crunching under the feet of couples returning to their cars, the small giggle of a toddler, a gentle breeze rustling through the sculpture garden, and the rising sound of crickets chirping as the park retreated into silence.
It was the music of freedom.

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