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Music event added to plethora of July 4th activities

The city of Claremont is well-known for its grand Independence Day celebrations, engulfing the entire city in festivities from dawn to dusk. The staple Freedom 5000 race, parade and patriotic fireworks display are just a sampling of how Claremonters do Fourth of July up in a big way.

This year’s celebration, however, is getting a little bit bigger.

Claremont will ring in the red, white and blue a few days early with its first patriotic musical event at the Claremont Depot from 6 to 7:30 p.m. next Sunday, July 1. The concert is free and open to the public.

The star-spangled review, presented by members of the Celebration Choir and Orchestra of Pomona First Baptist, presents a collection of spirited tunes honoring American heritage both past and present. From “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” to newer numbers, it is giving choir members a chance to explore the country’s history with Claremont, a city in-tune with its past.

“Our country is just steeped in tradition and heritage and so is Claremont,” said Claremont resident Bob Stollmeyer, part of the congregational choir. “The heritage and the history of patriotism goes a long way, and I think it can reach down into the roots of Claremont itself.”

Though presented in Claremont for the first time this year, the patriotic musical has been a biennial tradition at Pomona First Baptist for more than a decade.

“It’s a wonderful send-off for the Fourth of July,” said Pam Cameron, a Claremont resident and choir member. “It makes a nice beginning to any Independence Day celebration and brings everyone’s focus to the right spot, which is our country.”

Being asked to bring its spirited music to Claremont felt like a natural extension of their choir program, according to Choir Director John Burroughs, whose goal has been to bring more of the church’s productions beyond the pews of the choir loft.

“We are always looking for opportunities to do things outside of the church walls in our  community,” Mr. Burroughs said.

Claremont is one of more than 10 local regions represented at Pomona First Baptist.

“The event is kind of a regional draw for the church and as Claremont does such a great job with the Fourth of July and since we have [the production] prepared, we thought it would be neat,”  he added.

Mr. Burroughs began the patriotic musical program in 1996 after moving to the area from New Jersey several years prior.

“We have a really exciting Christmas program and Easter at the Fairplex. Adding a Fourth of July presentation just made logical sense as another area to celebrate our country and our patriotism as well as our Christian heritage,” said Mr. Burroughs, who began his all-volunteer position as choir director of the church soon after joining the congregation.  

In its first year, the choir performed a musical, but has since stuck to piecing together musical selections from various musicals and other sources.

“That way it is always something a little new and doesn’t get old,” Mr. Burroughs explained.

Prep work for the large production, comprised of about 70 choir members and 40 musicians, begins months, and several holidays, in advance. The moment Easter pastels are packed away, choir members get out their red, white and blue to begin patriotic preparations. Weekly rehearsals started right away.

“The main thing is finding the music and helping the choir memorize it,” Mr. Burroughs said.  

Mr. Stollmeyer, a veteran of the US Navy from World War II, finds the event can be moving to the point of tears for him and many others.

“It simply helps get you into the impact of what serving our country means,” Mr. Stollmeyer said, “and the tradition of what our nation has been through to become the nation that it is. The framers of our Constitution are a model of what we try to sing about.”

The public is invited to bedeck the Depot with picnic blankets and lawn chairs for the musical presentation. While the performance at the Depot, 200 W. First St., will have a more limited orchestral accompaniment, those unable to attend the Sunday evening production can view the regular event in its full glory that morning at the 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. services at Pomona First Baptist, 601 N. Garey Ave. They will also be streamed live at www.pfblive.tv.

“I just feel honored to give credence to our tradition, our culture and our heritage, and Claremont fits into that perfectly,” Mr. Stollmeyer said.

For more information call 629-5277 or email info@ pfblive.tv.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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