I may be the only person alive who objects to the Russian National Anthem being played to celebrate America’s Independence Day.
Our July 4th celebrations here in my new home town were cancelled this year due to heavy rains. I found out today that there will be fireworks locally to celebrate Labor Day this weekend. Which put me in mind of the Fourth just passed.
Regardless of the rain, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the local fireworks on the 4th, as I was spending the weekend in New Jersey with friends and family. In much of NJ these days, fireworks come at a premium; the cost of admission is anywhere up to $25 per person, and we’re a really big family. So, at the end of a lovely day, we gathered in my mother’s living room to watch the Macy’s fireworks on TV.
Not quite as good as live, but they do a wonderful job. It just never fails to amaze me that we so often hear the national anthem of Russia as the musical accompaniment to our Independence Day celebrations.
Yeah, I’m talking about The 1812 Overture.
Now I love Tchaikovsky — his Concerto in B-flat minor is my favorite piece of classical music. And where would we be without The Nutcracker at Christmas? Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty — the man was a genius! But The 1812 Overture was written to commemorate his country’s victory over Napoleon. And that passage with the cannons roaring in the background? Behind the flourishes, the score includes excerpts from Russia’s National Anthem.
And we Americans play it every Fourth of July.
Try mentioning that to anyone and you will get “the face”. The “you’re-crazy-you’re-weird-you-don’t-know-nuthin’-and-who-cares-anyway” face.
But it is crazy, at least to me. Why, when we have scads and scads of scores written by Americans about America, do we insist on playing a Russian song on Independence Day?
Ever heard Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean? Wonderful song. It could use a little cannon fire at the end. Or what about our own March King, John Philip Sousa? There are several fabulous choices from his works, including The Liberty Bell March and Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.
Or what about our national march? Almost everyone is familiar with Sousa’s Stars & Stripes Forever. And let’s not forget about our own National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. It’s already got “rockets red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”. An enterprising music arranger could certainly accentuate it with some cannons roaring for effect.
Now at this point, you may be thinking I’m just a Russophobe. But I’d have the same reaction to any other country’s anthem. Seriously, wouldn’t you object to celebrating the Fourth with La Marseillaise (France) or A Soldier’s Song (Ireland)?
But those other anthems aren’t included in a song with CANNONS. So I guess they don’t have a chance to start with.
It may just be one of those things that comes under the heading of “Well, we’ve done it this way for so long …” Or maybe nobody has actually been paying attention. But let’s stop and reflect.
Isn’t there a better choice?