In a town steeped in traditional holiday celebrations, the National Symphony Orchestra's annual Labor Day weekend concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol is not only a special musical tribute to the American worker but also a good way to take the sting out of the unofficial end of summer.

"I really think this concert is a chance for families and friends to gather together ... to be outside, to celebrate what this country has to offer," said Steven Reineke, who prepares for his second season as principal pops conductor for the NSO. "And there's no greater venue."

Reineke has planned a musical feast that includes the "Salute to the Armed Forces" and John Williams' stirring "Liberty Fanfare." In a nod to the depth and breadth of the American landscape, the NSO will also perform Stephen Flaherty's "American River Suite" and Reineke's tribute to the Potomac in "River Medley." Actor Michael John Casey will be on hand to narrate another of Reineke's beloved pieces, "Casey at the Bat," in what Reineke says is a "celebration of the Nationals doing so well this year." The audience will then be invited to sing along to "America the Beautiful."

All of this patriotic musical merrymaking is just the first half of the show. After the intermission, Reineke has called upon his good friend Tony DeSare, the internationally known vocalist and pianist, to perform selections from the American Songbook.

If you go
The outdoor concert celebration takes place Sunday at 8 p.m. and is free to the public with no tickets required. Gates to the West Lawn of the Capitol open at 3:00 p.m.
In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. Please call the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Concert Hotline at 202-416-8114 after 2:30 p.m. Sunday to find out if the concert has been moved.

"Tony is a consummate entertainer," Reineke noted. "He's in his 30s but he's a big throwback to the American Songbook [and] he also likes to take contemporary music and give it that sensibility that makes it sound like Sinatra, but it's completely his own take."

In addition to DeSare's tribute to Songbook classics such as "That Old Black Magic," "Night and Day" and "Autumn Leaves," he'll perform a new spin on "Kiss" by Prince and Bruce Springsteen's "Fire." The concert concludes with what Reineke calls "a jazz barnburner" as DeSare and everyone gathered take part in "Something's Gotta Give."