More than 4,000 people celebrated July 4 at Rohnert Park's Green Music Center with a Santa Rosa Symphony concert Friday night that opened with "The Star Spangled Banner" and closed with guest star Judy Collins singing "God Bless America," followed by two encores and fireworks.
The singer, 75, was a regal figure onstage, crowned with long, flowing white hair, and she delivered both folk music classics and Broadway show tunes in a clear but delicate voice.
Trained as a classical pianist as a child, Collins first hit the national and international music scene during the folk music boom of the early 1960s. She later had hits with her Grammy-winning version of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" in the late '60s and the Stephen Sondheim Broadway ballad "Send in the Clowns."
Collins included both hits in her program Friday, as well as medleys of songs by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and John Denver, and an a capella rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." She showed her broad musical tastes with Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans," made famous by Arlo Guthrie, and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Between songs she told show business stories about everyone from Mae West to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.
"I know everyone, and I've worked with everyone," she said.
She also told the audience that Hurricane Arthur delayed her flight by a day from New York City, where she lives. But she arrived Friday in time to rehearse with the orchestra in the afternoon.
Some in the crowd that filled Green Music Center's Weill Hall and spilled out onto the lawn beyond came mainly to see Collins.
"I grew up with music from the folk era," said Linda Burrille of Windsor. "I've followed Judy Collins since the '60s, and I've always loved her singing."
Others made the most of the outdoor setting, bringing through the security check at the gate lavish picnics of smoked salmon and barbecued chicken, as well as lawn chairs. Others bought hot dogs and chips at food stands or picked up pre-ordered box lunches outside Weill Hall.
"It's so much more relaxed out here," said Rick White of Windsor, sitting on a lawn chair with a clear view of the stage through Weill Hall's open back wall, and the screen above it that gave a magnified look at the concert.
The mood was patriotic. The orchestra, led by guest conductor Matthew Garbutt, began the concert with an instrumental tribute to the U.S. armed forces, leading up to John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Green Music Center staff took great pains to make sure the closing fireworks display came off well, after the fireworks show last July 4 fizzled and had to be cut short.
(You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Arts blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.)