Ridgefield hosts festive Fourth of July concert

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Despite the predicted rain showers, residents of Ridgefield and local surrounding towns were treated to a rain-free concert at Ballard Park for America’s birthday on July fourth. The weather held up nicely as the park filled with music fans who brought chairs and blankets and sat on the grass, enjoying a Fourth of July concert featuring the Russ Kassoff Big Band Orchestra and Broadway veteran Debbie Gravitte.

The concert was sponsored by the Town of Ridgefield, CHIRP (an acronym for Concert Happenings in Ridgefield’s Parks) and The Ridgefield Playhouse. Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi was happy to see the festivities come to life.

“It’s fabulous to have the concert, especially with the sunshine,” he said. “Couldn’t ask for more.”

Ridgefield Playhouse Executive Director Allison Stockel stood alongside Marconi and Ridgefield Selectwoman and CHIRP Founder and Producer Barbara Manners as the concert began.

“We had the two venues working together with the Town of Ridgefield: the Ridgefield Playhouse and CHIRP, to bring cultural happenings to town,” she said.

According to Stockel, The Ridgefield Playhouse is using several venues to hold performances this season.

“The playhouse is doing a mixture of outdoor shows under the tent and on the baseball field, and indoor as well,” she said. “In September we’ll be fully back inside.”

The Independence Day performance began with jazzy instrumental pieces, most of which were original songs. Mr. Kassoff, who is a jazz pianist, conductor, music director, composer, orchestrator and arranger, is a longtime pianist and worked as musical director for Frank Sinatra and Liza Minelli.

One of the highlights of the first half of the show was a Dixieland medley of patriotic songs which gave a jazzy twist to famous songs such as “This Land is Your Land,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful.”

In addition to the patriotic songs, there were also several famous crowd pleasers such as “In the Mood.”

After a brief intermission, Mr. Kassoff invited Debbie Gravitte to the stage. Gravitte, a Broadway veteran and Tony award winner, enthralled the audience with tried-and-true hits such as Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” from the 1938 musical “Leave it to Me!”

Gravitte continued with the Musical theme with “Let Me Entertain You” from the musical “Gypsy” and also sang a jazzy version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Oklahoma!” – “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” This version was unique in its’ slow rhythm and she completely made it her own.

For George Gershwin’s hit, “I Got Rhythm,” Ms. Gravitte performed in an especially slow jazzy style and brought a child from the audience to “conduct” the orchestra.

Next, Gravitte invited to the stage two guests to help her sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.”

The icing on the cake of the show was a Judy Garland medley, which included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song” and “Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart.”

The band concluded the concert with “God Bless America” and invited the audience to sing along.

For more information about upcoming concerts and to see the calendar visit CHIRPCT.org and RidgefieldPlayhouse.org

L to R: Manners, Marconi and Stockel
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