A Musical Tribute

A local celebration of the nation’s 237th birthday will include a salute to West Virginia’s sesquicentennial of statehood.

In Wheeling, Fourth of July festivities will begin and end with great musical traditions: the ever-popular Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1410 Chapline St., at 11 a.m. Thursday and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s free holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. A pyrotechnical show will cap off the orchestral celebration.

St. Matthew’s event also is free and open to the public; free-will contributions to Faith in Action Caregivers are accepted. The church is accessible to wheelchairs from the building’s 15th Street entrance.

This year’s Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew’s will include numbers in honor of the Mountain State’s 150th birthday. “We’re concentrating on the sesquicentennial theme with West Virginia songs,” event organizer Robert F. Troeger said.

Troeger, organist-choirmaster and director of music at St. Matthew’s, will serve as host and organist for the fun-filled, patriotic celebration. The star-spangled festivities will again star Moundsville resident Sue Pettit, a soprano soloist in St. Matthew’s parish choir, as the featured artist and song leader.

By popular demand, Edward Washington II, an acclaimed tenor from Florida, will return to participate in the Independence Day Extravaganza. He made his debut at the event in 2012.

As always, drummer Tim Birch of Wheeling will provide percussion accompaniment for the singers.

New this year, Troeger said, will be a guessing game on wartime music from every era, including the Vietnam War years. Special prizes will be awarded to winners of the musical contest.

Adding to the fun, red, white and blue beach balls will appear again during the concert. Troeger and Pettit pointed out that it is a rare opportunity, indeed, to toss an inflatable beach ball around a stately church nave.

Audience participation, of course, is always a favorite part of the Independence Day Extravaganza. The crowds filling the church are called upon for the sing-alongs, the medley of military service anthems and, often, special surprises. The youngest members of the audience are invited to participate in the concert’s rousing finale, the “Stars and Stripes Forever” march.

Pettit, a music educator in Marshall County Schools, will perform patriotic numbers and medleys of show tunes and will lead the traditional sing-along of standards and old favorites.

As is customary, Pettit will dazzle spectators with an amazing array of red, white and blue attire embellished with sparkling accents. The well-known singer usually has several surprises up her sleeves, to the delight of concert-goers.

Washington also will sing a set of songs drawn from his extensive repertoire, Troeger said. The tenor performs numbers from various categories, including Americana pieces, hymns, spirituals and other songs with Christian themes. He also is proficient in arias and art songs.

During the concert, Jeanette L. Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action Caregivers, will explain the interfaith ministry’s mission. Faith in Action Caregivers supports the independent living of older adults and people with disabilities in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties through the shared ministry of faith communities. All services are provided without charge regardless of income level.

Wojcik will recognize the organization’s board members, advisory council members, volunteers and care recipients.