More than 500 people enjoyed the Hays Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert Saturday evening. In this, his third year as conductor of the symphony, Shah Sadikov once again proved his mettle as a musician and organizer. During his tenure, the orchestra has grown in size and quality. The 2017-18 season, third in a series featuring music of the heritage of the Germans from Russia, will focus on American and English compositions. Appropriately, the season began with the music of Aaron Copland, who tried hard to establish and maintain a genuinely American tradition of “classical” music. (Of course, this is impossible — traditions have to grow from years of common style and material — and only then can their representatives be called “classical.” Copland was destined to play Salieri to Gershwin’s Mozart.)

On the other hand, Copland reached his own stylistic goals. He composed for the people, in a musical idiom everyone could comprehend. The concert opener “Fanfare for the Common Man,” composed in 1942 at the beginning of World War II, became a patriotic rallying cry. The symphony gave it a spirited rendition, which, followed by our national anthem, got the evening off to a fine, patriotic start.

Copland wrote “Lincoln Portrait” (1942) as homage to a great American and as a reflection of political conditions early in WWII. The work interweaves music popular in Lincoln’s time with Copland’s own composition and narrated text of Lincoln’s statements urging national unity and equality. The orchestra and narrator Brenda Meder, director of Hays Arts Council, were rehearsing “Lincoln” at the same time our national unity and equality was overtly threatened by the confrontation in Charlottesville and subsequent events. I think remembering this gave everyone’s performance and the audience’s reception extra edge and poignancy.

Later, the orchestra settled into Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” “Spring” started out as a ballet commissioned by Martha Graham, but lives on as an orchestral work. Graham named the piece after a description of a river in West Virginia in “The Bridge,” a poem by Hart Crane. “Spring” depicts musically the life of a pioneer family, concluding with variations on the Shaker melody “Simple Gifts.”

After supposedly concluding with Leonard Bernstein’s overture to “Candide,” the orchestra launched into Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” Sadikov gestured for all to stand, milking a standing ovation that he, Meder and the orchestra would have received in any case.

Many thanks to Auto World (Kay and Dick Werth) for sponsoring the concert, to Werth Wealth Management for sponsoring refreshments at the post-concert reception, and to Cathy’s Breads (Cathy Drabkin), who baked the pies that were auctioned before and after the performance.

The next orchestra concert will be the Children’s Halloween Concert, at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29. Pre-concert family fun begins at 2 p.m. And don’t miss the New Music Festival, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4.

Ruth Firestone is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.