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July 4 on TV: 'Capitol Fourth' tips its hat to John Williams

Friday, July 04, 2003

By Kathy Blumenstock, the Washington Post

On the holiday that President John Adams predicted would be "the most memorable in the history of America," television viewers have the freedom to choose among several programs celebrating the country's birth.

Country singer Dolly Parton rehearses for the Capitol Fourth 2003 Concert yesterday in front of The Capitol in Washington, D.C. The celebration is scheduled to include performances by Parton, James Ingram and the Chieftains, and a fireworks show. (Lawrence Jackson, Associated Press)
Click photo for larger image.

PBS's concert on the Mall, "A Capitol Fourth 2003," airs live at 8 tonight on WQED-TV and offers a special tribute to composer John Williams.

"John is America's greatest living composer," said Jerry Colbert, the concert's executive producer. "He's one of those stars who isn't all self-important and full of himself. He likes to be out with people and play different selections."

To honor Williams, Colbert said, "We thought it would be fun to play some of his great movie themes, from 'Jaws,' 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' the bicycle chase from 'E.T.,' 'Superman,' 'Star Wars' and others, and then give him an award."

Williams also will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in his Olympic fanfare from the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He also has written themes for the 1988, 1996 and 2002 Olympics.

Williams has scored the music for more than 90 films, including "Schindler's List," which won an Oscar and a Grammy. He has won five Oscars and 17 Grammys. His most recent musical scores can be heard in "Catch Me If You Can" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Williams usually spends the Fourth of July participating in concerts in Boston or Los Angeles. This year he'll be in Washington.

"It is my first time at this concert, and I really look forward to it," he said.

"July Fourth renews the ongoing experiment that this country is, " Williams said. "We're still trying to define ourselves in terms of the world. I've always thought of our country as a metaphor for diverse groups managing themselves, and with all that's happened these last few years, the experiment is all the more important."

For the Fourth of July, Williams said, "these concerts are important all across the country. Of course there are fireworks and hot dogs, but it's the music which goes to the core and spirit of the country. And that's a thrill for me."

Country music star Dolly Parton also is a newcomer to the Capitol concert. "Dolly's got herself a new dress, and she's promised to do '9 to 5' -- she said she'll get everybody singing along with that one," said Colbert, referring to the title song from Parton's 1980 movie of the same name.

Parton also will salute the troops stationed in the Middle East with "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

Actor Barry Bostwick will host the concert. Actors Kristin Chenoweth, Craig Bierko, Irish musicians the Chieftains and bluegrass musicians Earl Scruggs and Jerry Douglas also will perform. Erich Kunzel will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra.

From New York, WPXI will carry NBC's "Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular." The show, hosted by actors Carson Daly and Molly Sims, airs at 10 p.m. Broadway performer Betty Buckley will narrate the musical fireworks display titled "Lights of Freedom."

New England's own patriotic holiday tradition, the "Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular," will air on network television for the first time as CBS broadcasts the concert live at 10 p.m. Country singer LeAnn Rimes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform. Harry Smith, anchor of the CBS News "Early Show," is the host.

"The great thing about the July Fourth concert is that we reach our broadest demographic of any time of the year," said Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops. "If the Boston Pops is America's orchestra, then the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is America's chorus. With a choir of that massiveness singing 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' and LeAnn singing her new song, 'We Can' from 'Legally Blonde 2,' we're offering something for everybody."

A far less-traditional twist on America's birthday festivities will air on digital cable channel VH1 Classic.

"The David Lee Roth 4th of July Christmas Special" airs Friday through Sunday at 10 p.m. on VH1 Classic. No fireworks, just friends headed to the beach, fast cars, costumes -- and a live donkey.

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