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A crowd fills Coolidge park for a previous Pops on the River concert.

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Pops on the River

Composer Douglas Hedwig says he was naturally excited to hear his new work in its world premiere last September during a Chattanooga Symphony & Opera performance at the Tivoli Theatre.

"It was awesome," he says.

He expects the emotions will be quite different Wednesday night when the same orchestra reprises "Fanfare Alegre: Dia de la Fiesta" during the annual Pops on the River concert at Coolidge Park.

"The premiere was great, but in a way I am looking forward to the July 3 concert because I can relax a little more," he says. "I'm looking to be able to groove on it."

Hedwig's is just one of three new pieces commissioned by the CSO and Music Director Kayoko Dan. Works by Tim Hinck and Jonathan McNair also will make their sophomore appearances. Hinck's "Fanfare for Rosa: A New Citizen" was performed by the orchestra on Oct. 25, and McNair's "E Pluribus Unum" was presented March 28.

Dan says she conceived the idea after discovering "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman," a series of works composed by Joan Tower. She thought something similar could be done here.

If you go

› What: Pops on the River by Chattanooga Symphony & Opera

› When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 3 (street performers start at 5:30 p.m.)

› Where: Coolidge Park, 200 River St.

› Admission: Free

More about the show

Read more about Pops on the River and more at timesfreepress.com/news/chattanooganow/music/story/2019/jun/25/pick-your-pops/497442/

"We have so many talented people in this town," she says, adding that she had several goals and guidelines in mind when she spoke to the trio more than two years ago. A strong proponent for living composers, she wanted the pieces to be accessible enough that they would not only be immediately embraced locally but that other symphonies around the country, or even world, would want to perform them as well.

That meant they needed to be somewhat uplifting and not too heavy, and they needed to be relatively short and not overburdened by lots of exotic instrumentation.

"My hope is that they will be performed by others, so they couldn't have a ridiculous amount of special instruments," Dan says. "I also wanted a sense of hope and unity coming out of this music."

Which makes them well-suited for a Fourth of July pops concert, she says. While the annual show features older, familiar pieces by John Philip Sousa and John Williams, Dan hopes 100 years from now people will be speaking of these same pieces with the same historical reverence.

"We have to leave something for the next generation," she says.

Hedwig says for his piece, he imagined the listener in a small Mexican village just before dawn, on the day of an important fiesta.

"You hear the chirping of crickets. As the sun begins to rise, the imposing shape of an ancient temple emerges against the brightening sky. The light builds and intensifies until suddenly the sun appears and a fanfare signals the beginning of the celebration. Crowds gather in the central square. The band begins to play, and people start dancing. Then a church bell sounds, and there is a momentary pause as the village priest arrives to offer a blessing. When he has finished, the festivities recommence, sweeping the padre and the entire community into the wild celebration. With building energy and drive, the work concludes with a final statement of the primary fanfare theme."

Hinck says his work is based on growing up the child of immigrants. His father is Japanese and his mother is Brazilian. He interviewed both illegal and legal immigrants, including children, and then created a composite character called Rosa from his own experiences and those interviews.

The piece opens with the sounds of chaos representing the confusion of coming to a new place, and slowly hope and finally confidence and success work their way into the music.

McNair says his piece is based on the familiar slogan found on the country's Great Seal, "E Pluribus Unum," which originally referred to the 13 colonies emerging as one nation. For his purposes, it can be interpreted as: Out of many notes, one piece; out of many players, one orchestra; out of many instruments, one sound; and out of many people, one audience.

"The arts can communicate so many messages," he says.

"It has a movement about hope, which we have to hold out for. It is less politically motivated and more about finding more ways to come together."

The concert also will feature patriotic favorites, a Disney Magic medley and The New Dismembered Tennesseans. Singers and songwriters from Operation Song, a therapeutic program that helps veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder through songwriting, will also present a tribute to veterans from 5 to 7 p.m.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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