BBQ in the Garden While Watching Fireworks on July 4th (7/4/2021)

This year we are celebrating our Independence Day with our musician friends

Last year, the Independence Day was at the peak of the epidemic, and we were very lonely quarrantined at home. Until 4 months ago, we got fully vaccinated and started our weekly small garden luncheeeon party once a week. California has been completely opened since June 15th, and shops, restaurants, museums, and public venues have been restarted. Finally we saw the light at the end of the long dark tunnel, we are ready to start enjoying a beautiful summer, and we can make delicious meals by using our own vegetables and fruit and entertain our friends and relatives in the garden.

As an immigrant, I love my new “country”.  If China is the “mother” who gave birth to me, then the United States is the “father” who nourishes me.   This year’s July 4th, we’ve invited a few friends to have a BBQ in our garden while watching fireworks.

This year’s Independence Day is worth celebrating, because Biden won the US election in November. He acted vigorously as soon as he came to power, rolling out vaccines across the country tirelessly, resulting in the falling of Covid-19 infection and death rate. Our whole family members have received 2 shots except those under 12 years old, and we can visit each other now.

The following is a piece of  I finished last year “2020 Variations” (for cello solo and electronic music):

2020 Variations (2020, By Joan Huang)

2020 Variations” is written for solo cello and electronic sound.  Somehow 2020 is good even number for harmony, peace and equality.  The year of 2020 is leap year and an important year: US presidential election, Summer Olympic Games, Beethoven’s 250 year anniversary, many events are taking place around the world.  It is my sincere desire to express my love to America as an immigrant.  

The piece is based on the American patriotic song “America the Beautiful“:

The Beginning: Electronic sound:  the sound of 16 cellos playing 4-part fugue of America the Beautiful from “Off Stage” gradually moving to “On Stage”, then the solo acoustic cello “joins” the crowd.  

Variation I: As 16 cellos continuously playing 4-part fugue based on America the Beautiful, the solo acoustic cello varies the theme virtuosically.

Variation II: As an excerpt of speech by Andrew Yang (the 2020 presidential candidate) fades away, the varied quasi-pentatonic cheerful version of America the Beautiful is played by the solo acoustic cello, representing the Asian American ethnic vitality. 

Variation III: As a beautiful voice of a solitary girl’s solo chanting (sung in Spanish) resounds throughout spacious mountain ranges, reverberating through every corner of America, the cellist plucks strings, taps the sounding board, imitating guitar and drumming, America the Beautiful becomes a rhythmic dance tune.  Here I attempt to show the American Latino mentality.

Variation IV: Electronic sound presents exotic Muslim folk ensemble mingled with American Arabic hip-hop rapping.  The tune of America the Beautiful set in a minor key, those characteristic augmented seconds bring special spices to the piece.  

Variation V: Electronic sound presents an elaborate saxophone solo accompanied by sophisticated piano harmonies.  Then the solo acoustic cello “sings” a blues-like embellished America the Beautiful in a sentimental minor key.  

Variation VI: Electronic sound builds a momentum of mass marching: shouting slogans, marching in streets, drumming etc.  Then the solo acoustic cello stomps on the floor accompanying with the marching tunes of America the Beautiful.

Variation VII: America the Beautiful is sung by a quartet of mixed voices in the background, gradually the solo acoustic cello joins in the “crowd” in a solidarity.  

This is my understanding of the American flag:

American flag

The red color of the flag is the blood shed by the ancestors for freedom;

The blue color of the flag is the ocean retained liberty across the time and space;

The white color of the flag is the peace dove who delivers the message of independence;

The stars of the flag are the eyes of the freedom soldiers staring at the vast land;

The stripes of the flag are the epaulettes of the fearless warriors symbolizing their honors.

Independence Day (the Fourth of July) is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, King George III, and were now united, free, and independent states.The Congress had voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2, but it was not declared until July 4.

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches, and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States.” 

(from Wikipedia)

Two years ago, we celebrated our 4th of July with the multi-gifted timpanist of Berlin Philharmonic Wieland Welzel and the magnificent American percussionist Peter Erskine and his wife; for the previous year, we celebrated it with my brother’s family, 2 of my cousins’ family.  

Two years ago at our garden with Wieland Welzel and Peter Erskine

(Three years ago, we spent the July 4th with my relatives)

We live in Altadena, 1,400 feet above sea level, a paradise for birds and flowers; a natural oxygen bar for yoga meditation; a lush oasis overlooking the famous city of Pasadena.  It’s only walking distance for us to go to nearby Eaton Canyon National Park with picturesque mountain views, there’re many similarities to Provence in southern France.

Here is the 5th movement entitled “American Crow” from my “Bird Twitters from Altadena” (for Suona and 6 Percussionists) played by my friend Yazhi Guo and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble under the baton of Frank Epstein):

Joan Huang: “Bird twitters from Altadena” (5) “American Crow”

This year’s 4th of July, we’re celebrating it with our musician friends.

The day before the holiday, I decorated the house with theme of “red, blue and white”: red, white roses and blue agapanthus are inserted in the vase, a red and white checkered tablecloth is placed in the garden table, and napkins, utensils, wine glasses, side by side, all in these 3 primary colors.  California climate is ideal for outdoor summer evening dinners with almost no mosquitoes.  

The menu for our July 4th dinner are from Celebrate! (by Sheila Lukins), I varied a little bit:

1. Glorious Gazpacho:

Diced cucumber, diced red bell pepper, diced tomato, diced red onion, tomato juice, a little red vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper, and a diced avocado on top.

 2. Lobster Roll

That’s Bill’s favorite.  I bought lobsters from Costco, They are cooked and shelled (about 10 minutes), then cooled, the hot dog buns are coated with salad dressing, with chopped lettuce the red and yellow cherry tomatoes are cut in half.  They’re a perfect July 4th dish!

3. BBQ pork chops

Use the back of the Chinese chopping knife to pat the boned pork chop tenderly, sprinkle with salt and pepper, pour a little olive oil, and marinate for an hour or two. Turn on the outdoor grill and grill on high heat, about 5-6 minutes on each side. For the last 1 minute, apply the BBQ sauce (preferably Kansas).

4. Boiled sweet corn

Heaven arranged, the corns in my organic vegetable garden happened to be all ripened at this time, we eat everyday. I don’t need to put any condiments, they’re delicious!

5. Mixed sautéed vegetables:

They’re all home grown: yellow crooked squash, green beans, purple Japanese eggplants, green peppers, etc, simply sautéed them in olive oil and garlic.

6. Peach Cobbler: Early July is the season for harvesting peaches. Many American families make their own peach ice cream. Peach cobbler is a good choice during this time:

Method: 1) Mix 7-8 peaches with half a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and put in a pie dish.

2) Combine 1 cup of half flour, 4 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 tablespoons of soda powder, 5 tablespoons of buttermilk, and half a cup of whipped cream. Then put small balls of dough on the top of peach randomly.

3) Bake at 350 degree in the oven for 50 minutes.  Eat while hot, with vanilla ice cream, beautiful!

The front lawn by the main entrance of our house faces Pasadena and it is the most ideal viewing platform for watching fireworks.  Altadena Golf Course always gave the most spectacular firework show, last year’s the show was cancelled. This year the show resumes!

Here is my description about the 4th of July: “Finally came the finale of the festival: the explosion of fireworks roared like thunder, and our poor golden retriever Gigi trembled in a corner. Fireworks are flying in the sky, soaring like rockets, sparkling like diamonds, and colorful like neon. We stared at the starry sky with rapt attention, and the kaleidoscope of infinitely changing fireballs made us ecstatic like children…”

Let me finish my blog with this splendid 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

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