UTAH SYMPHONY, Deer Valley Resort, Thursday.

What's the Fourth of July without a rousing Sousa march? The Utah Symphony celebrated America's birthday — and officially began its summer season — with a "Salute America" program at Snowbird last Sunday, and then performed another at Deer Valley on Thursday.

The theme is easy, but coming up with traditional, yet fresh, programming every year can be a challenge.

This year, the focus seemed to fall on baseball, that all-American sport, and Irving Berlin, that all-American composer. And the Saltaires Show Chorus joined the symphony as the featured guest artists.

Although the symphony played down-the-line traditional fare, such as the Armed Forces Salute, it seemed to be trying to reach a little outside the box on some of their other offerings. "The Star-Spangled Banner," for example, was more like a patriotic medley that featured a solo trombone (played by Larry Zalkind).

The arrangement of Sousa's "Thunderer" march was one that, according to conductor Scott O'Neill, had been arranged for ballet (no, that's not a misprint).

The symphony also played Proto's "Casey at the Bat," narrated by Dan Roberts, a highly programmatic work depicting that oh-so-dark day of baseball in Mudville, followed by play-by-play commentary of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in a "concert-casted" (a spin-off of sports-casted) performance of Shickele's "New Horizons in Music Appreciation" (Utah Opera's Therese Clay joined Roberts as co-commentator).

The Saltaires added its "two bits" with all-Berlin selections, such as "Steppin' Out" and "Puttin' on the Ritz," arranged for male barbershop chorus. The group also joined the symphony at the end of the program for John Williams' "Hymn to the Fallen" from "Saving Private Ryan," the Armed Forces Salute and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."

So did the program work? Well, sure.

It may not be the most brilliantly crafted program the symphony has ever come up with, but on a warm, patriotic summer evening, it's hard to complain about much of anything. At the very least, it was quite enjoyable.

The non-traditional versions of traditional favorites will probably not become oft-repeated classics, but they were fun for a change.


E-MAIL: rcline@desnews.com