By MADDY VITALE
Get ready to be wowed at a family-friendly event, courtesy of the Ocean City Pops orchestra, with two free outdoor concerts in celebration of the Fourth of July.
Concerts will begin at 8 p.m. on both July 3 and July 4 on the field at Carey Stadium, which is behind Ocean City High School on the beach block of Fifth Street and Sixth Street. Bring a beach chair or blanket and get comfortable. There will also be seating in the bleachers.
Ocean City Pops conductor Vince Lee spoke Thursday about the musical selections the 23-piece orchestra will perform.
He also talked about how excited he is to bring a third year of patriotic shows to crowds by the legendary local orchestra, with roots that go back 94 years.
The Pops will perform patriotic classics as well as audience favorites in honor of the holiday.
“Imagine a family with young children. The parents aren’t going to bring them into a concert hall,” Lee said. “But they would likely take them to an outdoor concert. It’s a way to provide a free or inexpensive way to reach out to families.”
The show will open with Liberty Fanfare by John Williams. There will be the Salute to the Armed Forces, also known as the Armed Forces Medley, and America the Beautiful. The 1812 Overture will end the show.
In between, students from the Ocean City Pops summer camp will join the Pops for a performance of the theme from the Star Wars movie, Lee said.
On July 4, the concert will end just as the fireworks begin, giving audience members a prime place to watch the entertaining show, Lee said.
Mayor Jay Gillian called the Ocean City Pops shows over the holiday “wonderful.”
Last year, Gillian had a chance to stop by to watch both shows.
“You see a lot of locals and you see families out there enjoying themselves,” he said. “It is really cool. It is another terrific community event.”
Gillian added that the fireworks were once done at Carey Stadium, but later moved to a barge, where they are set off over the holiday.
“The field was alive,” he said of the former fireworks displays from the stadium field.
Now, with the Ocean City Pops’ July 3 and July 4 shows going into their third year, something great is taking shape, he said.
“It is another special family tradition that is starting in Ocean City,” Gillian said. “The Ocean City Pops put on a great concert. It is laid back and relaxing. With July Fourth being so busy, it provides a low-key, relaxing way to spend some of the holiday.”
The Pops orchestra is supported by the city and Friends of the Ocean City Pops, a fundraising arm of the orchestra.
Last year, the Friends of the Ocean City Pops donated a $72,000 outdoor stage to the Ocean City Pops for outdoor performances. Prior to that, the local orchestra had to rent a stage.
Gillian emphasized that the generous donation made the purchase of the stage possible, and it is one of the many ways the community works together. In this case, it is to further the musical arts.
Lee has been the permanent Ocean City Pops conductor since 2020 and was the guest conductor in 2018 and 2019, while the city was auditioning conductors.
Lee said he has enjoyed his time in his position and that he is so appreciative of Gillian and Michael Allegretto, an aide to the mayor who also oversees the Pops.
He also said that the Friends of the Ocean City Pops have been so generous.
“I can’t reiterate enough how grateful and appreciative I am,” he said. “It has been a ton of fun to be a part of this. The city and the community have put their trust in me and it is terrific.”
The Ocean City Pops has entertained local audiences since the 1920s and has evolved to include music of every variety, according to the city.
Allegretto said of the orchestra and the holiday shows, “It is certainly very unique for a city to have its own orchestra. The Ocean City Pops is steeped in history here.”
He continued, “To have these types of arts in our town, especially the musical arts, is a great way to attract different crowds to the city and to the Boardwalk. I appreciate the mayor and City Council for continuing to support the orchestra.”
Lee has been a conductor in positions throughout the world, which include the New York Youth Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra.
But when it comes to Ocean City, he said there is just something really special about it, especially for a July 4 show.
“I can’t think of any other city in America that is more perfect for an outdoor patriotic concert than Ocean City,” Lee said.
For more information visit Oceancitypops.org.