Celebrate Our Nation with Music

Every July 4th our great nation celebrates the founding of our country. These celebrations would not be complete without playing and singing patriotic songs. The month of July, 239 years ago, was a landmark time in our nation’s history. Our founding fathers had the foresight to establish the colonies into a central republic called the United States of America. Music played an important part in the beginning of this great nation.

Many patriotic songs owe their existence to national or international conflicts. If one examines the words of these songs they illustrate, in music and words, a history of the Republic. Patriotic music first appeared during the Revolutionary War. Then the War of 1812, American Civil War, Spanish American War and the two World Wars. All of these wars contributed to a musical history of the American Republic. Some patriotic music was semi-religious in character due to the Puritan ethic of the early settlers. This form of music flourished in the 19th Century during and after the Civil War. After this war, music focused on rebuilding America to produce a unified front.

The Music
The Star Spangled Banner, our National Anthem, is the most famous patriotic song in America. Most people think of Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) as the writer of the anthem. Key only wrote the poem – not the music. The tune was an old English song written by John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) an English organist and composer. It was officially adopted as our National Anthem in 1931.

This is a Postage Stamp GeorgeCohan Yankee Doodle DandyStars and Stripes Forever, America’s National March, is also one of the most famous patriotic pieces ever written. The revered American composer – the incomparable John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), known as the “March King,” composed Stars and Stripes Forever in 1896. The melody came to him on a sea voyage returning from Europe. “When we reached the shore, I set down the measures that my ‘brain-band’ had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed,” Sousa wrote.

“Even more nationalistic are the marches of Sousa known the world over; nothing better characterizes the youthful spirit, optimism and patriotic fervor of the United States of the day,” wrote McKinney and Anderson in their book Discovering Music.

Sousa also composed: Washington Post, El Captain, Semper Fidelis, The Thunderer, Hands Across the Sea and The Liberty Bell, among many other great songs and marches.

America the Beautiful, with music by Samuel Augustus Ward (1848-1903) and the poem by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) is one of our country’s favorite songs. The words for America or My Country Tis of Thee were written by Samuel F. Smith and added to an old German tune. This music was adopted by the English for their anthem God Save the Queen.

The great song, God Bless America, America’s unofficial national anthem, was written by Irving Berlin (1888-1989) and popularized by songstress, Kate Smith in the late 1930s. This song has become a traditional favorite played and sung at the seventh-inning-stretch in major league baseball games throughout America.

George M. Cohan (1878-1942) popularized patriotic songs with You’re a Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doddle Dandy and the famous World War I song, Over There.

Other memorable patriotic songs include: When Johnny Comes Marching Home, This is My Country and God Bless the USA.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic was the rallying anthem of Union soldiers. The source of the title, for John Steinbeck’s book, Grapes of Wrath was found in the first verse of the poem Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe in 1862.

Throughout our country’s existence change has been a hallmark of our culture but the sentiments, pride and hope found in this genre of music remain a steady constant through the ages.

The power of this great music in our country’s heritage is alive and well and will live forever in the hearts and minds of America’s citizens past, present and future. What better way to celebrate our nation’s birth than to sing and play our great national songs.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net
Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Wow Pow Sockem’ Rockem! I thought I was looking for a needle in a haystack when I starting looking for a movie to review this time. I wanted something fun and entertaining for summer but I also wanted something patriotic in celebration of Independence Day. Something, well not Independence Day, which I love but had already reviewed.

I am so sorry to admit that I had never met my new favorite superhero, Captain America. What a man—95 years old and doesn’t look a day over 30! Somehow you don’t feel like a cougar if they really are 95.

I enjoyed this movie immensely. The ultimate good vs evil flick with the suspense of sorting out who the good guys are was amazingly entertaining.captain_america__the_winter_soldier_poster_

Being a Marvel Comic novice, I decided I was way overdue for a short history lesson on superheroes. Our boy, Steve Rogers was born to Irish Catholic immigrants on July 4, 1920. Raised on duty, honor and humility, when World War II was heating up and with both parents dead, undersized Steve tries to enlist in the military. He was rejected as 4F but was recruited by Operation Re-Birth, a top-secret performance enhancing experiment. With the help of Super Soldier Serum, Captain America is still alive today and fighting the fight for right.

Captain America Winter Soldier is the second of the current generation of Capt films and was released in 2014. The First Avenger was released in 2011 and Captain America Civil War will be released next year (I’ll be in line). There were also earlier versions released in 1944, 1979 and 1990. I still can’t believe I missed all of these.

The special effects on this film were absolutely amazing. Car chases, bombs going off, guys jumping off aircraft in flight or crashing through windows all made for some tense moments, but all great fun.

The cast is stellar. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, Captain America. His female counterpart is Scarlett Johansson. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty awesome as Nick Fury and Robert Redford (now he does look 95 but in a good way) plays Alexander Pierce. Other notables in this $260 Million blockbuster are Anthony Mackie and Sabastian Stan.

Disney has put together a complicated political thriller in comic book form and I am duly impressed. While all the action is happening you don’t think much beyond wanting the good guys to win. The problem is, you don’t really know the good guys from the bad guys until the end. For me, it doesn’t get any better than spending a couple of hours watching our American values defended and the Marvel-ous Captain America does that so well.

So, try to pull yourself away from all the politics going on right now with the campaigning heating up. Instead, why don’t you sit your kids or their kids down in front of that Big Screen TV with a Big Bowl of Popcorn and spend some time bonding over some values that are worth pondering. True American Ideals courtesy of Captain America! Let me know if you plan to join me in line in 2016 by emailing me at chastings@rockcliff.com.

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