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Royal Fireworks Concert offer Baroque-era entertainment

Theatre Ballet of Spokane will perform a program of Baroque-era ballet.
Theatre Ballet of Spokane will perform a program of Baroque-era ballet.

The enduring popularity of the Royal Fireworks Concert can be summed up in three words: fireworks, fugues and free.

That “free” part is certainly important, since it means that everybody can come down to Riverfront Park and enjoy a trip into 1749 without fumbling for their wallets.

Up to 30,000 people a year have taken advantage of this free event. Over 32 years, this has probably added up to almost a million spectators.

Yet just as important is the nature of the event: It bills itself as the nation’s only true Baroque-period festival. It’s certainly the only one with a synchronized fireworks display.

“I know that 95 percent of the people come to see the fireworks,” said David Dutton, of Allegro Baroque & Beyond. “But we offer people a little culture, too.”

And that’s where the “fugues” part of the equation comes in – although to be precise, it’s more like “suites” and “overtures.”

The 15-minute fireworks display is synchronized to the music of the 60-piece Royal Band, playing Handel’s 1749 “Music for Royal Fireworks.” The booms of the percussionists will be matched by the booms from the pyrotechnics.

The Royal Band – woodwinds, brass and percussion – will be arrayed on the Floating Stage in the pooled-up river near the terraced concrete steps behind the INB Performing Arts Center. Those seeking the best acoustics for the concert usually gather there.

Yet as many as 20,000 other people typically fill the Lilac Bowl across the water. They can lounge on the grass and get a spectacular view of the fireworks – and still hear the music, although from behind the Floating Stage.

The entertainment begins at 7 p.m., over on the Lilac Bowl side of the river. Theatre Ballet of Spokane will perform a program of Baroque-era ballet, to recorded music by Handel and Bach. That ballet program will be repeated at 8 p.m.

The main concert begins on the Floating Stage at 9 p.m. Dutton said the program will include music by the English Baroque composer William Boyce, the French Baroque composer Jean Philippe Rameau and, of course, the great George Frideric Handel.

Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” was originally composed for a celebration in London’s Green Park. The fireworks were a disaster – the stage caught fire and a giant image of King George II collapsed – but the music has lived on.

This concert will also feature music about 260 years newer. Regional composer Ronald Klimko will conduct his own fanfare, written in a semi-Baroque style.

It’s all free, but Allegro is taking reservations for a special seating section on the Rooftop Patio at the Spokane Convention Center, beginning at 7:30 p.m., including a buffet.

Tickets are $60 each or $420 for a table of eight, available by calling (509) 455-6865 or online at