The Royal Fireworks Festival and Concert has been a Spokane cultural institution for 31 years.
Somehow, it seems like 260.
That’s because this free festival turns back the timepiece to 1749, when King George II was on the throne and Handel’s “Musick for the Royal Fireworks” was at the top of the charts.
There was no city of Spokane in 1749, so this festival, presented by Allegro Baroque and Beyond, also plays a trick with geography. The Lilac Bowl Meadow of Riverfront Park will be converted into the English village of Riverdell. Beginning at 3 p.m., actors in Georgian costume will stroll through the meadow, engaging in live chess matches, combat classes and magic shows. You can watch a game of croquet, or participate in some children’s games.
As a prelude to the main event, the Theatre Ballet of Spokane will present a baroque ballet, choreographed to the music of Tommaso Albinoni, at 7 p.m. A Green Show (an Elizabethan/baroque variety show) follows at 7:30 p.m.
The main event will be the concert at 9 p.m., right about dusk, performed on the Floating Stage by Allegro’s Royal Band, an outdoor baroque wind band. About 60 professional musicians from around the region will perform on oboes, bassoons, trumpets, horns, percussion and serpent (not the reptile, but the bass wind instrument). They will perform music by William Billings, an American composer of the Revolutionary War period. The concert will include a special tribute to Expo ’74 on its 35th anniversary, including a speech that was delivered every day during Expo.
David Dutton, Allegro’s artistic director, said that a special musical treat this year will be the use of three baroque trumpets. These extra-long and extra-expensive trumpets will be used in a special fanfare and in a selection by C.P.E. Bach.
The climax will be Handel’s “Musick for the Royal Fireworks,” accompanied by a fireworks display choreographed to the live music. The scene will be similar to the scene in 1749 in London’s Green Park, when the piece debuted — although those fireworks were not triggered by shortwave radio.
Once again, the event is free, underwritten by a number of sponsors including The Spokesman-Review, Desautel Hege Communications, Sterling Savings Bank, Taylor Engineering, Ruth H.S. Pearson and the KXLY Broadcast Group.
However, if you want the best seats for the concert, Allegro is still taking reservations for a special seating section on the patio near the Spokane Convention Center, including a light dinner buffet. Tickets are $60 or $420 for a table of eight, available by calling Allegro at (509) 455-6865.