I have no big Fourth of July traditions. I don’t feel I must to go on a picnic, eat a hot dog, see a fireworks display, or go to the beach. Each year’s celebration is whatever the day brings. The one thing I do enjoy — usually compliments of PBS — is hearing a concert of patriotic music. I love a good Sousa march and a rousing rendition of “The Marine’s Hymn.”
Last evening AETN, our local PBS station, broadcast A Capitol Fourth, an offering of music and fireworks from the west lawn of our nation’s capitol. A variety of musical genres was presented by guest artists (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons!) but the program featured mostly patriotic songs by The National Symphony Orchestra.
A traditional setting of our National Anthem opened the event. On this 200 year anniversary of the penning of “The Star Spangled Banner”, I was glad to hear it performed in a manner that allowed the thousands of people gathered to sing along.
Have you noticed that the songs that extol our country’s greatness are all old? “God Bless America,” one of the newest, was written in 1918 but didn’t catch on until the early 1930’s and later became the unofficial hymn for World War II.
“America the Beautiful,” words written almost 20 years before being set to music, is 120 years old. This song, along with many popular tunes by George M. Cohan, was important during the time of the Great War, WWI.
The music that never fails to stir my soul is “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” officially declared our country’s National March. John Phillip Sousa composed the arrangement in his head while on a voyage home from Europe. He transcribed it onto paper when he reached land. He also wrote lyrics to the march — a little known fact. Skipping to the trio of the tune, (the easiest part to sing) the words are:
Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right .
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed when they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
Amen. A good ending to a wonderful Independence Day!