published Friday, June 29th, 2012

At Pops on the River, tradition rules

  • photo
    Fireworks light the sky above the Tennessee River at the conclusion of the Chattanooga Downtown Partnership's Pops on the River Monday night, featuring the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. Spectators sit in chairs on the terrace of the Hunter Museum of American Art to watch the fireworks from both the Lookouts and Pops on the River.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Chattanooga Symphony & Opera executive director Molly Sasse thinks of the annual Pops on the River concert as akin to turkey on Thanksgiving -- it's a tradition.

"It only comes once a year," she said. "I think if we played it every other week it would get very old, but it's just special because it's what everybody associates with the birthday of our country. I think the musicians get a bang out of playing it, and I know the audience loves it."

Last year's presentation in Coolidge Park was actually music director Kayoko Dan's first time at the CSO podium, with the exception of her audition concert before being named music director.

"She wasn't scheduled to do it," said Sasse. "She stepped in for Bob (Bernhardt, music director emeritus) when he had (a conflict). That was her surprise unveiling."

This year, after a successful first season with the CSO, Dan will once again be leading the concert, which will feature standard patriotic music.

"We try not to deviate too much from what people expect," Sasse said. "You expect to hear Sousa marches, and you expect to hear patriotic things, and the '1812 Overture,' and we're going to give them all that."

The concert will also include a traditional sing-along, selections from "Carmen" and "Colonel Bogey March" from "Bridge Over the River Kwai," as well as John Williams' "Oympic Fanfare" in celebration of the upcoming Summer Games in London.

Sasse said one of the elements she likes best is the Armed Forces salute, in which all service members are asked to stand and the music from each branch is played.

"It's fun to thank them and see everybody stand up," she said.

One final tradition: The concert takes place on July 3, Sasse said, to free everyone up to celebrate the Fourth with their families.

Contact Holly Leber at or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at Subscribe to her on Facebook at


  • What: Pops on the River.

  • When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

  • Where: Coolidge Park, 150 River St.

  • Admission: Free.

  • Phone: 267-8583.

  • Website:

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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