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This show always ends with a bang

It’s easy to make the case that the Royal Fireworks Concert is a certified Spokane summer institution.

• Up to 30,000 people jam Riverfront Park for it every year.

• This is the concert’s 32nd anniversary.

• Its Baroque theme sets it apart from just about any other summer concert in the nation; it features Handel’s 1749 “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”

• Allegro Baroque and Beyond’s 60-piece Royal Band is the nation’s oldest established wind band of its type.

• It has a crowd-pleasing big-bang factor. The fireworks are choreographed to match the last three movements of the “Royal Fireworks” finale.

• It’s free.

Over three-plus decades, the Royal Fireworks Concert has grown into a key event on the area’s arts calendar; at one time, it expanded into a two-day Baroque-themed festival.

This year’s event has been cut back to the essentials, reflecting a couple of lean years in the nonprofit arts community. There will be no accompanying festival, just the concert on Sunday. The only lead-in event this year will be a Baroque Ballet, presented at both 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. by the dancers of Spokane’s Ballet Arts Academy. They will demonstrate the art of Baroque-era ballet, choreographed to the music of Francesco Veracini, an Italian Baroque composer.

However, the concert itself will have two special attractions, the first being Vivaldi’s Flute/Piccolo Concerto, featuring Sara Jolivet of Seattle, according to David Dutton, co-artistic director of Allegro Baroque and Beyond.

“It’s called ‘The Goldfinch,’ and it’s a really famous Vivaldi concerto,” said Dutton. “It has all of these little bird calls.”

The second is a Clarini Concerto by Altenburg. A clarini is a “herald trumpet” – the kind you might see on the rampart of a castle in a fairy tale movie. This concerto was written for seven of them.

The Baroque Era is generally considered the era from about 1600 to 1750, in which musical styles were ornamental and highly embellished. Bach is the best known Baroque composer, followed closely by George Frideric Handel.

Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” was composed at the tail end of the Baroque Era. It was commissioned by England’s King George II for a huge celebration in London’s Green Park, commemorating the end of the War of the Austrian Succession.

Thousands of Londoners attended this combination concert/fireworks display, and they got more than their money’s worth. A large image of King George II collapsed during the fireworks show, causing the specially-made wooden stage to catch fire.

Spokane’s Royal Fireworks Concert has enjoyed far more salutary results over the years. Spectators pack the concrete steps in front of Riverfront Park’s Floating Stage (near the INB Performing Arts Center) to get the best vantage point for the band. The fireworks are visible from just about anywhere you care to set down a blanket.

However, if you want the best seats for the concert, Allegro is still taking reservations for a special seating section on the Rooftop Patio at the Spokane Convention Center, including a salmon buffet. Tickets are $60 or $420 for a table of eight, available by calling Allegro at (509) 455-6865 or on the web at

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