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LI Philharmonic's 5 free summer concerts

When the Long Island Philharmonic plays the first of five free summer concerts Monday, the Fourth of July, you might expect fireworks by Grucci and "Stars and Stripes Forever!" Right? And the "Salute to Armed Forces" program later this month promises more fireworks and patriotic fare. But the musicians are eager to remind Long Islanders they offer more than John Philip Sousa and pyrotechnics.

"People need to know this is a jewel of an orchestra," says Sharon Moe, the Philharmonic's principal French horn player.

The orchestra returns Monday for the first of two concerts at the Brookhaven Amphitheater at Bald Hill after making its debut there last summer. "We want to provide the Philharmonic with a permanent summer home," says Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko, "and offer a free night of family entertainment and exposure to classical music. With the fireworks no longer at Jones Beach, we expect thousands of Long Islanders to come here for the Fourth."

PLAYING ON "It's amazing how well we still play together under the circumstances. That shows the kind of talent we have," says John Babich, who's played bass with the ensemble since its inception 32 years ago and is chairman of the Long Island Philharmonic Players Association.

The circumstances Babich refers to involve the financial plight that resulted in forgoing the 2010-11 subscription concert season. Although the Philharmonic played a sold-out New Year's Eve gala and a fundraising concert in May, as well as continuing its education outreach, the five free concerts represent its biggest exposure since last summer's annual Islip Arts Council concert at Heckscher State Park, which drew an estimated 20,000.

SUMMER LINEUP Besides the Independence Day gig at Bald Hill and the July 16 "Salute" concert in East Islip, the Philharmonic plays three concerts in three days in August. The performances Aug. 12-14 at East Meadow's Eisenhower Park, Huntington's Heckscher Park and Brookhaven Amphitheater mark the first time in almost two years the full orchestra has played on consecutive nights.

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"We love playing together," Moe says. "We're a dedicated bunch, and we hope to remind people of what they've been missing. From symphonies to pops, we're doing a whole range."

"Stars and Stripes" won't be performed until the "Salute" concert July 16. For the Fourth, the Philharmonic is playing "Celebration Overture," a piece by its music director, David Stewart Wiley, in a varied program that includes the first movement from Dvorak's Ninth Symphony ("From the New World") and a "Sound of Music" medley.

"This summer is important for us," says philharmonic president Jack Russell. "What we really need is for people to see what we have to offer so we might earn their support going forward."

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