July 4th! Yaay! What’s With The 1812 Overture?

What do you think? The “1812 Overture” is a crowd pleaser, but it honors all the wrong things. Read this history of the piece and the Russia that inspired it and see if you agree.


A repost for the 4th of July!  Happy 4th!!

Tsar Alexander I

So Fourth of July is here and we all will be hearing both the Capitol Fourth celebration and the Boston Pops play the final themes of the 1812 Overture on national television just prior to the fireworks.

Why the 1812?

Well it’s got cannon blasts – great for outdoors!

Hearing this particular piece on the 4th of July and, knowing the current state of our educational system, just makes me wonder how many of those millenials celebrating realize that the Overture has nothing to do with the War of 1812. Yes we fought the Brits in 1812 but the Overture does not lionize Dolly Madison fleeing the White House with George Washington’s portrait.  You knew that, right?

Come on – tell me you knew that.

The Overture written by Tchaikovsky is as thoroughly a Russian piece of…

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8 thoughts on “July 4th! Yaay! What’s With The 1812 Overture?

    • There used to be a comic strip called “Life With Father”. It featured an Irishman and his social climbing wife (Jiggs and Maggie). She tried to bring him into high society, making him attend operas and go to big social events, but he only wanted to drink beer at his local pub and eat corned beef and cabbage. Maggie, of course, thought beer drinking and eating corned beef and cabbage were lowlife activities!


    • It shows how tradition sometimes defies logic. The music is fine for a concert of light classical pieces, but there are plenty of patriotic tunes that better celebrate the American spirit.


    • You always have interesting and thoughtful blogs. This one was especially powerful for the historical background. I’ve often thought it “nice but not appropriate”, but your blog definitely outlined the precise reasons why. I felt it was one worth sharing. I don’t get blubbery about national holidays, but I do feel they should be observed in appropriate and thoughtful ways. Since the July 4th holiday celebrates a specific huge event in the national history, playing a piece of music (not matter how crowd pleasing and loud…!) celebrating a French military defeat that didn’t involve us just seems odd and ignorant.


    • I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to celebrating holidays. Memorial Day isn’t for stores to have sales or for people to go on picnics or to the beach, for example, but to honor the dead, particularly those who died in the armed forces. The July 4th holiday isn’t one to honor a French military defeat, so why play music that celebrates what is a glorious day in Russian history, perhaps, but didn’t involve the fledgling USA. I am not much fun when it comes to holidays! Andyway, toritto’s blog did a super job of outlining the history and inappropriateness of this piece of music for a holiday that should celebrate the American spirit and our good fortune on this continent.


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