For the second year in a row, the Baltimore Orioles hosted the Sarasota Orchestra in a sold-out pops performance on the diamond at Ed Smith Stadium. The "Orchestra in the Outfield" program on May 9 paid tribute to a variety of American idols and featured a vocal performance by American Idol finalist Syesha Mercado, who was raised in the Sarasota area.
Principal Pops Conductor Andrew Lane led the Orchestra in interpretations of music made famous by Elvis, Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder and Judy Garland. The Orchestra also saluted Olympians and pioneers of the American West, and performed a narrated, musical rendition of the Gettysburg Address in a tribute to U.S. armed forces.
The 3,300 casually-attired guests thronged into the left-field stands of the stadium before sundown and enjoyed ballpark fare of hot dogs, popcorn, and more, as they awaited the show. The musicians soon emerged from the visitors' dugout to take the stage set up at third base, and the crowd began to applaud with anticipation.
Conductor Lane began the concert with the lively High School Cadets March, then introduced the National Anthem singer, Kaitlin Folsom. A ninth-grader at State College of Florida Collegiate School, Folsom had won the Orchestra's Anthem Idol competition to earn the honor of performing at the concert. The American flag snapped and fluttered above the outfield wall, as the guests stood, hands on hearts, while Folsom sang.
Next, Lane featured Western-themed compositions by Aaron Copland and Alfred Newman, alternating sweet strains and rousing choruses that energized the crowd, while blackbirds swooped above the outfield.
Continuing the American Idol theme as the twilight sky began to mellow to dusky hues, the Orchestra performed familiar hits from the Elvis Presley songbook. "That's All Right," "Love Me Tender," and "Jailhouse Rock" had the crowd rocking in their seats, while babies danced on their mothers' laps.
Judy Garland's signature tune "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz mellowed the crowd, then Lane fired things up again with a medley from Louis Armstrong, including the Dixieland favorite "When the Saints Go Marching In." The Orchestra's hip vamp to close out the "Satchmo" set sent the crowd into a frenzy of applause as Lane told the audience "That's just very, very fine music!"
A hush fell over the crowd as Sgt. First Class Jason Ham, a member of the West Point Band, took the stage to narrate Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address with the Orchestra playing behind his words. Then, the Orchestra played portions of each Armed Force's anthem as guests who had served in each branch stood, and the audience applauded wildly for each service.
As intermission ended, the Oriole Bird -- wearing his tuxedo jacket -- climbed the stairs to the stage and conducted the "Charge!" bugle call with the crowd enthusiastically providing the "vocals." The cheers brought Conductor Lane from the dugout to "eject" the dejected Bird. The two then hugged to show that it was all in fun, further delighting the crowd.
The program continued with a tribute to Olympians with John Williams' Olympic Fanfare and Theme, followed by a medley of Stevie Wonder tunes.
Then, dressed in a sparkling blue and white gown, Mercado took the stage. A singer, actress, dancer, songwriter and philanthropist, Mercado recently made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning hit musical The Book of Mormon. She is widely known as a finalist on FOX's American Idol, in 2008.
Also in 2008, the Sarasota City Commission declared "Syesha Mercado Day" on May 9, the same day as this year's concert. Mercado shared that memory with the crowd, delighting her many fans in the audience.
Mercado's powerful performance demonstrated her vocal and dramatic range with selections including the theme from "Skyfall"; "At Last," a tune made famous by Etta James; and "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many." Her rendition of "Listen," a sweet-to-commanding ballad recorded by Beyoncé Knowles, brought an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The audience showed its appreciation for the hometown talent with a standing ovation as Mercado left the stage.
There was no rest for the energetic crowd as Lane and the Orchestra launched into John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," with the crowd clapping in time. The patriotic American march set the stage for the final event of the evening: a colorful fireworks display, launched from the outfield.