Sounds by the Sea

Sounds By The Sea is a South Mississippi tradition — Published in the Sun Herald

By PRISCILLA LOEBENBERG — Special to the Sun Herald

GULFPORT — Patriotic music emanating from Jones Park filled the air as fireworks lit up the night sky at Saturday’s Sounds by the Sea performance. The Gulf Coast Symphony concert is a Coast tradition that has found more followers every year.

Symphony Director Whitney Sumrall said the first concert, 14 years ago, played to an audience of only about 2,500. The Saturday performance drew a crowd closer to 10,000. A second concert is set for tonight at Beach Park in Pascagoula.

“We want everyone to grab a lawn chair and come celebrate with us,” Sumrall said.

The show opened with Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Civic Chorale directed by John Flannery. Ann White, who usually sings with the chorale, was a volunteer Saturday. She listened to the concert with Armed Services Retirement Home residents she was escorting.

“This is so wonderful,” she said. “It’s a first-class event.”

John Wesley Strickler conducted the symphony in a series of pieces chosen to pay tribute to the men and women who died in service to the United States. Selections included “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Semper Fidelis” and “Inchon.”

“I am particularly thankful to be among you tonight,” said symphony Board President John Folding. “The people of the Gulf Coast are proud and unwavering in support of our military.”

Mayor George Schloegel was guest conductor for “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Against the backdrop of the patriotic music, Robert Oswald recited the Gettysburg Address and John McFarland recited “Liberty for All.” The fireworks finale was set to the music of John Philip Sousa.