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Celebrate America with music under the stars
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Forget letting the radio provide your patriotic tunes this year - you can hear them live at the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra's Patriotic Pops concert at 8 p.m. today at the Brenau Amphitheater in Gainesville.

Director Gregory Prichard said this year's concert will include the standards everyone expects, like John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," mixed with a few songs that are more unconventional.

"It is full of lots of patriotic music. We'll feature American composers and American music. We have a little bit of Broadway music," Prichard said. "Definitely opportunities, in a musical way, to say thank you to our troops and to celebrate our nation's birthday."

Prichard, who has been directing the GSO for four years, said there are many songs to choose from when planning the Patriotic Pops concert.

"There's different genres of music from American composers and sometimes from composers who aren't American but who are paying an homage to America," he said.

Prichard said songs like God Bless America, which " is really stirring every time you hear it," are expected by concertgoers. But he likes to add songs they might not know.

"We mix that in with some other ones that maybe are new to audiences just to expand the repertoire a little bit," he said. "This particular year, being an Olympic year, (we are opening with) the famous "Olympic Fanfare" by John Williams." William's 1984 "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" is still played as the theme song for the Olympic games.

"A fanfare is a nice lively piece of music, and we're going to start the concert with that because next month we've got the Summer Olympics and everyone all over the world is going to be, again, hearing this American piece of music by this American composer," he said.

Prichard said even some of the old standards will be played with new pizazz, like "From Sea to Shining Sea." He said that piece is "actually a musical fantasy on the theme ‘America the Beautiful'- a theme and variations, different versions of it."

"Some of these old standards we use new arrangements to keep the music fresh and exciting for the audience," Prichard said. "Mixing the new pieces in and trying to keep the old standards fresh."

The concert, which has drawn 2,000 people in past years, is not formal, like concertgoers might expect from a classical show.

"This is just a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. We encourage families to come to this," Prichard said. "We're just out to have a good time, basically."

Concertgoers can bring a picnic, spread blankets out on the lawn of Brenau's amphitheater and just relax and listen.

"I think most people in America are proud to be Americans, and if they weren't born in the U.S., there's still many people who are proud of where they live and the heritage and so on. This is a nice opportunity to celebrate that and to celebrate our nation's birthday," Prichard said.