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What I missed most: ‘Home on the Range’

Chris, Steve, Machaela and Jason Edmonds (left to right) sway back and forth as they sing along to the last song of the day “Home on the Range” in 2016. It’s a tradition at the Symphony to close the concert with “Home on the Range” just as the sun is setting over the prairie. Many people, including Steve, tear up as they sing. (Photo by Hannah Roberts)

Storm damage at this year’s symphony site forced organizers to cancel the 2019 Symphony in the Flint Hills — the first time in its history, and the first time students of the Flint Hills Media Project wouldn’t get to witness the event.

By Kevin Hager

I’m not really a symphony music guy. I’m more classic rock.

Yet, thanks to the Flint Hills Media Project, I would have attended my eighth Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 15. 

I missed a lot of things by the concert being canceled. The record-setting steps I seem to outdo each year. The total amazement of what it takes to pull off the event. And seeing the slightly confused faces of students seeing it all for the first time. I feel terrible that they did not get to experience the long concert day.

But what I missed most was what comes at the end of the concert. It’s when the Symphony plays “Home on the Range.” The sun touches the horizon and the sky turns shades of pink or orange, signaling that the long day is just about over.

What always gets me (I’ve grown to be quite a softy my old age) is when concertgoers, volunteers, nearly everyone stands with arms around their neighbors and sings that song.

Concertgoers join the Kansas City Symphony in singing “Home on the Range” at the 2017 signature event. (Photo by Kelly Glasscock)

At that moment, 7,000 people become one. No liberals and conservatives. No rich people and poor people. No city-folk and rural dwellers. No one is any more important than the other. As “Home on the Range” is played and sung, those 7,000 people, many of whom will never see each other again, are at common peace. The moment is powerful, and it is difficult to explain until you have lived it. The country needs more of these moments. Moments that unite and not divide. 

If you’ve never gone, you gotta go. If only to experience that magical moment on the prairie as the sun sets. The song and the setting are Kansas treasures.

I’m not really a symphony guy. But I can’t think of a more powerful arrangement for such an iconic song, than how it closes out Symphony in the Flint Hills.

Though, I bet Eddie Van Halen could shred the crap out of it.

John and Rusty Shelton, of Lawrence, sing “Home on the Range” with other audience members as the sun sunk behind a hill and the concert concluded. (Photo by Kristin Baker)