It was as if it were on cue: The Cleveland Pops Orchestra was playing "God Bless the USA" during last year's Salute to Our Armed Forces concert when it hit the lines: "And I proudly stand up next to you and defend her still today." And the entire audience rose to its feet. "It was overwhelming and moving," says conductor Carl Topilow (below). "This concert makes us remember how we should never take for granted our freedoms." This year's concert is May 25 at Severance Hall. Here are a few of Topilow's favorite parts of the annual program.
God Bless the USA
Originally released by Lee Greenwood in 1984, the piece is this year's last song before "The Stars and Stripes Forever." "I met Greenwood in Denver when he was our guest at the National Repertory Orchestra's gala fundraiser," Topilow says. Greenwood had joined the orchestra for the event, playing some of his most popular songs. "[It] makes us realize why living in this country is something special," he says.
The Armed Forces Salute
A section of the performance is dedicated to playing the anthem of each military branch. "We have veterans, current service people and people who have friends or family serving stand up when they hear their anthem," he says. "It's a very special tradition." In fact, Topilow's friend, Mike Goldstein, always stands during "Anchors Aweigh." "I always wave to him from stage."
Mutual Gifts Gospel Choir's performance
Medical Mutual of Ohio, a performance sponsor, joins the show with its volunteer Mutual Gifts Gospel Choir. "They have always come up with a very stirring piece in addition to their very special rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "