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Thread: Why Is It That Americans

  1. #1

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    Why Is It That Americans

    associate Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to 4th of July festivities?

    Do they think it has something to do with the American/British War of 1812? Or does it have to do with the cannons?

    I was watching A Capitol Fourth on PBS tonight and Barry Bostwick, the MC, said something like "here's what you've all been waiting for, the 1812 Overture."
    And there I was sitting in front of my TV waiting for Stars and Stripes Forever and some other Sousa tunes; silly me.
    (I'd like to hear Kate Smith sing God Bless America live again but that's not going to happen.)

    Does anybody have any information or idea why this piece of music has become associated with our 4th of July festivities?

    (As an aside: Why not more Sousa, Cohan, and Berlin?)

  2. #2

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    I found this at

    Though far from Tchaikovsky's most important or impressive work, the "1812 Overture" is undoubtedly his best known piece. Tchaikovsky himself didn't feel much enthusiasm for the work while he was composing it, and if it were not for a lucrative commission for a ceremonial overture to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Russia's victory over Napoleon in 1812, it is unlikely that Tchaikovsky would have composed the overture on his own initiative.

    Tchaikovsky worked on the overture from October 12 to November 19, 1880. In his own words, he found it "very loud and noisy." The commission was to mark the 1882 Moscow Exhibition, and specifically the consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which was built there to give thanks for the Russian victory during the Napoleonic Wars. The premiere was duly given on August 20, 1882 and was an immediate success. It was subsequently published as his Op. 49 and enjoyed many performances throughout Russia.

    Its popularity has never waned. Tchaikovsky even conducted a performance of the in 1893, his last year. The response was raucous. <strong>In 1974, lamenting the declining audiences attending the Boston Pops concerts at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the picturesque Charles River Esplanade - a tradition dating back to 1929 - Boston businessman, David Mugar and the legendary Boston Pops conductor, Arthur Fiedler, hatched a plan to enliven the concert. The crowd responded so enthusiastically to the revitalized program, the pair made it an annual event. The enthusiasm was due in no small part to the concert's featuring the "1812 Overture." The musical program featured booming cannons, ringing church bells, patriotic sing-a-longs, and a grand fireworks finale. The Boston event became the first to play the overture as part of a Fourth of July celebration. The innovation has since been duplicated in countless cities around the country.</strong>


  3. #3

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    Mathman, I thought that the 1812 with the cannons and church bells at Boston Pops dated back only to the 1976 Bicentennial performance! Didn't realize they started it 2 years earlier! (Do you remember how frail Fiedler looked until he went to go out and conduct and suddenly looked 15 yrs younger?


  4. #4

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    It's a big thing of the NY Philharmonic concerts in Central Park with firworkds but not on 4th July. That's Sousa!!


  5. #5

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    <span style="color:navy;font-family:georgia;font-size:small;">You're right about Boston! I was a teen in the 70s and it was an annual tradition for everyone I knew to head down to the Hatch Shell (for many years I thought it was called the HAT Shell!). It was SO much fun! Every inch of Boston is easily accessible by trolley or subway, so it was easy to get there--no cars necessary. Hearing that 1812 Overture as part of the whole scene was FABULOUS! Thanks for bringing back memories.</span> :D

  6. #6

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    4dogknight :

    Though I am not an American, I found your question an interesting one. It's true the 1812 Overture has nothing to do with the 4th of July festivities; however, it is a very "stirring" masterpiece and ending with the cannons blasting and bells tolling definitely rings out a feeling of freedom. I don't think Tchaikovsky was limiting the use of his wonderful music just to the folks in Russia just as Beethoven would be moved to know his masterpiece - Ode to Joy (Symphony #9) is played world wide to represent freedom to all mankind. Just enjoy it and let the music "speak to you."


  7. #7

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    Re: Why Is It That Americans

    I played the piece in 8th grade(along with the highschool percussion) complete with Canons(ok they were garbage cans that we shot a cap gun into and we used the pep band base drums) and it is the most awesome piece ever... I record the programs EVERY YEAR with that piece... it's an amazing piece...

  8. #8
    On the Ice
    Join Date
    Jul 2003

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    This American associates the overture with Bugs Bunny, America's hero.

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