Nothing like a July 4 Pops concert with cannons firing


I have mentioned several times that Jay's children, ages 12 and 10, sing in the Westerly Chorus. This is a choral group which masses at about 220 voices for concerts and particularly the Pops concert on the third Saturday of June, give or take a day or two. The chorus is directed by George Kent.

This year’s Pops was his last performance since he founded the whole thing 34 years ago when he was 21 years-old. The performances always end with Tchaikovsky's “1812 Overture,” complete with the Newport artillery firing and the bells from Christ Church ringing. I climbed to the hilltop and spoke with the men of the artillery.

They have two howitzers, one from WWII and one from Korea. The gem, however, is a four-inch brass cannon. The artillery bought four of these in 1779 from the Paul Revere Foundry in Boston. All four are still in good shape and used in rotation at events such as the Pops concert and a big parade in Bristol on the Fourth of July when the congressional delegation and the governor march.

These cannons are closely watched by the Smithsonian Institution, as they are afraid somehow they could be damaged. Some time ago, the artillery shipped one to a special event. Lloyd's of London could not put a value on it so Lloyd’s simply gave them a no-charge $300,000 insurance certificate.

The cannons fire three shots at the start of the concert, and then a heavy salvo at the crescendo of the Overture. This takes my breath away, and I suppose I'll keep going back as long as they shoot those cannon.

The reservation of your blanket space is also amazing. At 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon you can come to the park and put down a blanket. You can use weights to skewer the corners of your blanket. No stakes, spikes or nails are allowed. There are wiring and irrigation pipes in the ground. When you come to take your spot at the concert your blanket will be there in your space.

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