PARADISE — The Ridge was anything but quiet on Monday as a crew of 38 orchestra members, 38 choir members, a live painter and more gathered at Paradise Junior High School to pay their respects on Independence Day .
In its 63rd season, the orchestra would return after witnessing the Camp Fire and Covid pandemic. Inside the gymnasium, people filled the 500 seats on the court and others filled the stands.
“The orchestra is making a great comeback,” said board member Jan Wade. “After the fire, we not only lost a whole bunch of musicians who moved out, but people lost their instruments and just their everyday items like their clothes. In an orchestra, if you lose a few people, you could lose an entire section.
Throughout the pandemic, the all-volunteer orchestra continued to hold its performances online to ensure no production was missed, Wade said.
“For such a small town, Paradise has an orchestra that rivals much larger towns,” Wade said.
After a medley of historic tracks such as “Hands Across the Sea” and “America the Beautiful,” musical director Lloyd Roby invited the audience to participate in a six-song chant.
“We wanted to change the way the performance was going to make things more interesting for the audience,” Roby said.
As the music played, Jess Mercer, art therapist and Air Force veteran, painted two pictures with just two minutes allotted to each.
“For me, it’s hard to be able to stand with everyone at once, regardless of our differences in how we vote, believe or even celebrate today – but for the last 58 minutes, we we’ve done together and that’s what’s important. Regardless of the differences, we can still do some things together,” Mercer said.
At the end of the performance, the orchestra paid tribute to each branch of the armed forces by playing an arranged medley that would allow the audience to stand up and be honored. One by one, members of the public stood and cheered for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.
After a salute to first responders such as firefighters, medical professionals and law enforcement, the band and choir ended to the tunes of “The Stars and Stipes Forever.”