Jenna Wos/MJ

By JENNA WOS, Copy Editor 

Jenna Wos/MJ
Jenna Wos/MJ

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than being surrounded by nature, soaking up the sounds of a live orchestra?

In commemorating the centennial of Henry and Clara Ford’s home, a collaboration between the Henry Ford Estate and the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra created this relaxing, late-summer utopia with Music on the Meadow on Sept. 20.

“We could not think of a better way to celebrate and to say how much this estate means to the Dearborn community, and how much it means to our world, than to bring together music and history,” said Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO of the Henry Ford Estate.

The outdoor performance was the third event this year honoring the centennial, following a Cultural Landscape Symposium in May and the Fair Lane Folk Festival in August.

Before the event, those who held VIP tickets were offered brunch inside a sunroom in Ford’s home, and following, all attendees were welcome to an ice cream social in the rose garden.

Prior to the performance, guests were able to walk the grounds of the estate. I followed a stone path through the trees, away from the commotion of the audience, and found an alcove atop a hill overlooking the Rouge River. With the perfect mix of sunlight and shade, the private sitting area was just far away enough from the stage for me to hear the musicians warming up. A flautist practiced scales as cicadas buzzed; a xylophonist chimed in as the wind shook the trees’ leaves; a trombonist blew a low note as a bee flew by.

Before conductor Kypros Markou took the stage and began the concert, I made my way back to the meadow and sat on the ground on the outskirts of the woods.

The orchestra opened with Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” a familiar, triumphant and brass-heavy tune, followed by his staccato, scattered and silly “Buckaroo Holiday and Hoe Down.” Next was a medley from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” with melodies that were surprisingly recognizable, including the string section’s heart-lightening “I Feel Pretty.” Following was Leroy Anderson’s dreamy “Summer Skies” and George Chadwick’s accelerating “Jubilee.”

After a short intermission, attendees were able to see and hear instruments owned by Ford, which are now on display at the Henry Ford Museum. The instruments demonstrated were ones that Ford bought for his own use, including Italian classical violins, and ones he gathered for his old-time orchestra, including several brass instruments, a marimbaphone and a violin played by the first professional American classical violinist, Maud Powell.

The next piece played, “Sojourn,” had a stronger tie to Dearborn than the preceding few, as it won the Fair Lane Legacy Composition Competition, where composers with Michigan roots were invited to create an original piece inspired by the estate.

“This piece is an homage to the men and women who have had vision and made sacrifices to improve the lives of their fellow human beings,” said winner Stephen Lounsbrough of Taylor. “Henry Ford demonstrated these qualities to the benefit of the greater Detroit area, the U.S. and the whole world.”

Following the premiere of Lounsbrough’s composition, the orchestra closed the performance with Paul Creston’s castanet-filled “A Night in Mexico” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s summery “Capriccio Italien.”

On a breezy, 70-degree day, the combination of nature’s noises and the ones crafted by the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra composed the perfect soundtrack to celebrate the history and beauty of the Henry Ford Estate.