We are typing with all ten fingers today, reading with both eyes. Our nose isn’t burned. We didn’t burn down the house with a stray bottle rocket. We have survived the Fourth of July. Listened to the Jefferson City Community Band on the Capitol lawn Saturday night–an aggregation that includes the lady whose trombone I have been lugging around since our first date decades ago when she was in Marching Mizzou. The community band is really good, by the way. Watched fireworks and the concert at the national mall. Heard the fireworks going off on the Jefferson City riverfront but they didn’t go off until past bedtime.
We are left once again pondering why a piece of Russian music that celebrates a victory over Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Dorodino in Russia has become such a staple of our Fourth of July celebration. It’s a spectacular piece of music to be sure. Sometimes there are cannons fired during its performance and chimes are played and a chorus sings words we don’t understand (perhaps because they’re in Russian?).
Tchaikovsky’s composition, The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49 wasn’t written until 1880, more than a century after our Declaration of Independence and has nothing to do with anything that happened in the United States or anywhere in the world in 1776. It commemorates Russia’s defense of Moscow during Napoleon’s campaign of 1812. It doesn’t even have anything to do with our second war with Britain, which was going on at the same time Napoleon was dreaming of empire.
Our own composer, John Williams, has written some magnificent music that would do every bit as well as Tchaikovsky’s piece.
We’re not downplaying “1812” as a great piece of music on its own. But we’ll be darned if we can figure out why this music that has nothing to do with our country or Independence Day is such a big deal on July 4th.
But what do you want to bet that we’ll hear “1812” several times next year and probably won’t hear something like Williams’ “Summon the Heroes?”
But at least we still have all of our fingers.