MUSCATINE — To celebrate the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, Marines everywhere cut a cake. With the addition of music and symbolic performances, the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra will do the same to honor Marines and other veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
"I’m adding this to the performance to take that extra, unique step in the concert hall of celebrating with the Corps," Conductor Brian Dollinger said in an email. "I don’t think there has ever been a birthday cake cut on a concert stage during a symphony concert before — we should be the first.”
The symphony will present "Heroic Memories" at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, Nov. 10, at Central Middle School's auditorium and Dollinger hopes Marine Corps veterans will attend in uniform to help with the cake cutting ceremony. He explained that it's tradition for the youngest and oldest Marines to get the first pieces of cake.
"This holds great symbolism to the Marine Corps as the recognition of the Marines that came before us, and the bright future of our youngest Marines heading into battle."
The birthday of the Marine Corps is the day before Veterans Day and Armistice Day, symbolizing the end of World War I, 100 years ago this year. Dollinger, a veteran himself having served eight years as a combat engineer in the Middle East during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, said its this combination of anniversaries that makes this concert especially meaningful. Heroism, he said, comes from the battlefield but also through leadership, which is why he included composer David Stern's piece "Lincoln Speaks of Liberty" in the performance.
"With the patriotic, heroic theme of this concert, and the current political climate our country finds itself in, I believe this work was the perfect fit," Dollinger said. "Heroism comes in many ways, and Abraham Lincoln is someone who we can look back upon as a true hero of this country. I believe that everyone should revisit the words of Lincoln to help guide us in these turbulent times.”
The world premiere the "musical portrait" will feature actor Fritz Klein as the 16th president, reciting passages from famous speeches that often promoted civil rights and freedoms.
One person in particular who values the freedoms in the United States is symphony violinist and president of the Muscatine Symphony Board Carmen Bugay.
"I love this country," she said. "I think the armed forces gives us privileges that we wouldn't have, like the right to vote."
Bugay is a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Romania in the 1970s, when the Eastern European country was under communist control. She said she knows what it's like not to have freedoms.
"I don't take things for granted," she said. "Supporting the armed forces is a privilege and I think everyone should be doing it."
This concert is one way of showing that support. The other is fundraising for the Semper Fi fund, an organization that supports veterans especially the wounded from all branches of U.S. military service financially and through various programs. Bugay said the symphony partnered with the nonprofit for the first time this year because it has "the highest rate of funds that go back to the military."
"We're helping out with as much as we can locally," she said.
The symphony website, muscatinesymphony.org, has been updated and will go live Friday. Bugay said tickets for the performance and merchandise may be purchased online. Donations also may be made to Semper Fi Fund through the website.
Dollinger hopes those who attend the performance, some probably for the first time, take away an appreciation for the symphony as a "gem" in the community that makes them want to return. He also wants the message of the evening to come through.
"As a whole, just to realize there are a variety of ways we can be heroic, but to never forget those truly heroic acts.”