Saturday’s ‘Happy Birthday, USA’ concert celebrates the country’s musical history |

Saturday’s ‘Happy Birthday, USA’ concert celebrates the country’s musical history

As far as Philip Charles Sneed is concerned, he has the best seat at Saturday’s “Happy Birthday, USA” concert in Grass Valley.

Sneed, concert narrator for the fourth consecutive year, prominently sits on stage.

“I’m so thrilled to be in the middle of the orchestra and choir. I’m the only one there who doesn’t have to conduct or play music,” said Sneed, who is Foothill Theatre Company’s artistic director. “In return, my job is to describe the next section. In the meantime, I get to enjoy this great sound and look out at all the people and see how they’re enjoying it.”

This year’s “Happy Birthday, USA” concert, traditionally a popular event which closes Music in the Mountains’ Summer Festival, features the organization’s Festival Orchestra and Chorus in patriotic songs, freedom songs, Civil War era songs and Broadway songs.

Sneed’s role will to narrate descriptive passages between groups of songs chosen by Paul Perry, Music in the Mountains’ artistic director and conductor.

“(The concert) takes us through the history of America, from the early days to the Broadway stage, sort of a journey through America’s musical past,” Sneed said. The concert ends with Sneed narrating Otto Whitaker’s poem, “I Am the Nation,” while the orchestra

plays “From Sea to Shining Sea.”

“This poem is Paul Perry’s choice, a piece I’ve read each year. The format is ‘I am this, I am that,’ all the things that make up America including the Brooklyn Bridge, the wheat lands of Kansas, Babe Ruth and the World Series,” Sneed added. “It perfectly captures the spirit of America and who America is. It shows that America’s strength is in the diversity. I love this concert and am very proud and honored to be part of it.”

Concert repertoire includes “Star Spangled Banner,” ” Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Semper Fidelis March,” ” I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,” ” Carolina in the Morning,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Charleston,” “Tea for Two,” “Hallelujah,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” “Oklahoma” selections and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songs.

Saturday’s outdoors concert begins 7:30 p.m. at the Nevada County Fairgrounds (11228 McCourtney Road). Gates open at 6 p.m.; concertgoers can bring in food.

Admission is $16 in advance and $18 at the gate for adults, and free for children 17 and younger. For tickets and information, call 265-6124, (800) 218-2188; order on the Web at or visit the box office at 530 Searls Ave., Nevada City, between noon and 4 p.m. Ticket outlets are The Union newspaper, Odyssey Books, Nevada City Postal Co., Mike’s Alta Sierra Market and Citizens Bank in Lake Wildwood.

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