Vermont Symphony Orchestra

Shelburne – Virtual Summer Festival Tour

Spending the 4th of July in Shelburne is always a highlight of our Summer Festival Tour. We are grateful to have shared so many Independence Days with you, our loyal audience, and look forward to when we can all return to Shelburne Museum for more music, picnics, Adirondack views, and fireworks. We wish you a safe and happy holiday and are honored that you chose to include our music and memories in today’s festivities. Happy 4th!



Ana Ruesink, viola: Several years ago, when my two daughters were learning how to play the violin, we attended a family music camp in New Hampshire. The camp dates mostly overlapped with a break in the middle of the VSO summer tour. I would have to leave camp a day early in order to make it back to Vermont for the July 4th concert in Shelburne, but it all seemed doable. I could even fit in an afternoon wedding gig if I left a few hours earlier. Perfect. July 4th arrived, and I was on my way. Somewhere between the Montpelier and Middlesex exits on I-89, as I was calculating my expected arrival time at the Vergennes wedding gig and gently boosting my rental car’s speed a bit beyond the limit, a sudden movement in the median caught my eye. A short distance ahead, a black bear was racing towards the highway. I braked like crazy and swerved onto the shoulder. Fortunately, I didn’t hit the bear. Unfortunately, the bear hit me, colliding with the rear driver’s side door with a hearty thunk. The bear kept moving and disappeared into the wooded hills. I hope she was fine, although I suspect she nursed a nasty headache for a few days. I was quite shaken, but somehow managed to hop back into my car, and arrived only a few minutes late for my wedding gig. I rushed from there to Shelburne. My heart didn’t stop racing until the final Sousa march chords faded away. Luckily I was okay and I hope the bear was too. But the universe taught me a few lessons that day. Don’t try to do more than you should. Be present. Slow down. Watch for wildlife. And always buy extra collision insurance when you rent a car. (Final repair fee: $1,500.)

It’s tradition for our musicians to get decked out in patriotic accessories and silly headgear for the final pieces of each concert, and the horn section usually takes the cake. They’ve sported a wide array of costumes over the years, and Principal Horn Shelagh Abate brings a bubble machine with her on tour to add to the fun!





Eleanor Long, Orchestra Manager: In 2016, a phalanx of firetrucks barreled backstage right before the concert to hose down dry grass so the fireworks could take place. In 2014 at our Shelburne concert, Peter Welch did some introductory remarks, and called the VSO “the best orchestra in America.” In 2012, a freak “bow echo” (look it up!) during a severe thunderstorm caused a power outage at the Expo (our rain site). Staff and volunteers used flashlights to maintain some semblance of order as security personnel locked down the building for safety reasons.

Gabe Langfur, bass trombone: Before we switched locations to Shelburne Museum, the VSO used to play at Shelburne Farms on the Fourth, and typically towards the end of the concert the stage would be swarmed by mayflies attracted to the lights. One year they were especially bad, landing all over our music and clothes. (The remains of one of them is still smeared on my 1812 Overture part.) During one of the Sousa marches I opened my mouth to take a breath and a mayfly flew right in. All I could do at that point was jump off the back of the stage to wash my mouth out. The concert was over for me! 

Many of our musicians have their own tour traditions and favorite places to visit while traveling the state. Click here for an interactive map of Second Trumpet Greg Smith’s favorite cycling routes, and here for a map of Principal Horn Shelagh Abate’s go-to tour stops.


Sponsors, Vendors, and Community Partners

Tour Sponsors and Partners

We are so grateful for our tour sponsors and partners who help make our tour possible year after year.

Thank you also to the individuals who help to make our concerts possible.


Spotlight: Community Partners

For our Shelburne concert, we wanted to highlight multiple partners who help to make the day special. First, as a leader in the arts, we want to thank Shelburne Museum for creating a fun outdoor space for performing arts groups both local and national to perform. They, along with Higher Ground, have invested in making the space more conducive for performances and have built a summer tradition for many Vermonters. (And that view!!)

We are lucky to have so many great partners and local businesses who help to make the event special for audience members: The Flynn for selling tickets, Shelburne Vineyard, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Southern Smoke Foods, and Silver Scoops for keeping our audiences fed and hydrated, and the Vermont Teddy Bear for donating our conductor bear who debuts at the Summer Festival Tour. And of course, our fantastic volunteers. While we hope to continue to expand upon the experience for our audiences, we are grateful for those who have worked to help us bring the concert to its current level of fun. We’re looking forward to getting back to it soon.

Thomas Denenberg, Shelburne Museum Director: Hosting the VSO on the 4th of July is a highlight of the season at Shelburne Museum.  With a wonderful program every year, sunset over the Adirondacks, and fireworks—this is always a magical evening.


Music and more

We always open our Summer Festival Tour concerts with The Star Spangled Banner, so three of our musicians recorded a creative tribute on oboe and English horn. Here’s Graham Powning’s “Variations on The Star Spangled Banner.”


No fireworks show would be complete without Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. When the pandemic upended this year’s tour, VSO musicians decided to record each of their parts in their own homes, so that they could still perform together—and share a musical moment with all of our extended VSO family. Please enjoy the intro courtesy of our cello section, and the finale with the full orchestra.


As the fireworks continue, it’s our tradition to play a variety of Sousa marches. Here’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, from five VSO violas.


And, in lieu of a visit to Vermont this summer, our trombone section has donned their concert attire to take care of business at home.


Looking for more music? We’ve made a playlist with some favorite pieces from past Summer Festival Tour programs (on Spotify below and YouTube here).

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday week. Feel free to virtually join us for each stop on our tour—tomorrow we’re showcasing Stowe!