Poll: Has the 1812 Overture Lost its Boom?

No Tcheers for Tchaikovsky Favorite at Macy's Display

Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - 11:00 AM

Is the 1812 Overture going out of fashion as the fireworks soundtrack of choice for July Fourth?

When the nation's largest Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza gets underway Wednesday night over the Hudson River, onlookers and TV viewers will hear "America's mixtape," a soundtrack of 50 patriotic songs and pop standards chosen through a Facebook contest sponsored by Macy's, the display's organizers. Choices range from "Holiday" by Madonna and "Sparks Fly" by Taylor Swift to "God Bless America" and "God Bless the USA."

Yet conspicuously absent from this year's lineup is Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with its crashing mix of French and Russian anthems and climactic cannon fire. In an e-mail, Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras said that while the 1812 Overture was one of the initial pieces Macy's Facebook fans could vote for, "the final score selection for this year as voted on by the public does not feature the song."

New York is not alone. When the Los Angeles Philharmonic comes to the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night, it won't be featuring booming cannons but rather Barry Manilow. In Philadelphia, organizers of the "4th of July Jam" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art promise pop acts like The Roots, Queen Latifah, Joe Jonas and others, but no mention of the 1812.

Still, it may be a temporary change of tune. Donna Grucci of Fireworks by Grucci believes the 1812 continues to be popular amongst many of her clients. "It's got a lot of depth to it," she said of the piece. Similarly, the piece will be heard in the Boston Pops's fireworks spectacular at the Oval in Boston Wednesday night.

Are New York and LA leading the way? Is it time to retire Tchaikovsky's spectacular? What would you like to hear in its place? Take our poll and leave a comment below.


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Comments [25]

Phyllis Sharpe from Teaneck, NJ

I agree, Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overature has nothing to do with the US 4th of July 1776. but it tells a great story that took place in Russia. Napoleon, having tired of Josephine, was attracted to a Russian women he met at a party, wrote to her father for permission to wed her, who replied "No, she is royalty, you are a commoner". So his "complex" kicked in and he headed off to conquer Russia, all the way to Moscow, hence the many times we hear the Marsellies. But Moscow was ready for him. The people had been warned to leave, take what they needed, because they would set fire to the city. Not having today's warning systems, the church bells told the warning. I love the 1812 Overature and cry every time, especially when there are church bells.
1812 US was between England and America. It was a sea battle, with the Enlish Navy more experienced than the US, which did not have a Navy. It was a well trained, successful navy against trading ships whose only battle experience was against pirates on the coast of the US.
But in the end the Flag still waved.
these are both Against all odds stories.

Jul. 10 2012 07:41 PM
organman77 from Kissimmee, FL

Here's a suggesties. Someone should commission Johnson Williams to composer an apprpiate lieve as a finale for the Fourth featuring musical by and about americans. I'm way over the 1812 but I wastafel taught not to complimenten if I didn't have a solution.

Jul. 06 2012 09:06 PM
Matthew Linder from Sacramento

It is a great story about divine providence though... http://ow.ly/c2ZeC

Jul. 05 2012 07:28 PM
Jan Marchellos from Scotchtown NY

First heard it when I was a baby it thrilled me. It doesn't matter the composer is Russian it fits the day's advents along with John Philip Sousa, Gershwin, and throw in Ray Charles. But with fireworks it's fitting and something awesome about it. I like every kid in my family to experience the thrill we had when we were kids. I watch them and see the wonder shining on their little faces. It has become a tradition.

Jul. 05 2012 12:26 PM

Whats almost comical is how the ''1812'' became part of America's most patriotic day, no? I mean....its RUSSIAN....its written by a RUSSIAN composer! AND I ADORE IT...EVERY TIME...BOMBASTIC...BOOM...CRASH...EXPLOSIONS..BOOM CRASH!! But its NOT really AMERICAN...Now...if we wanna play some SOUSA marches....(Happy 4th everyone!)

Jul. 04 2012 09:17 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

I agree with Harry that "great music is great music no matter how old it is", and I would also add that great music never really gets old; it is timeless. There will always be someone out there who will hear the 1812 Overture, Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, or Bruckner's 8th Symphony for the first time, and what an experience that is! Let us not deprive anyone of it.

Jul. 04 2012 07:34 PM
Joan from New Jersey

Tradition is never passe--honor the past, savor the present, celebrate the future.

Jul. 04 2012 05:49 PM
Paul Evans from Seattle, WA

If we discard the 1812 because it has been played many times, perhaps we should re-think other holiday music as well. How about those Christmas carols?

Jul. 04 2012 05:06 PM
Beth H from San Francisco, CA

Well, over at San Francisco Classical Voice, we tried to come up with music for a July 4th BBQ and elected to leave this classic off the list. We've got Bernstein, Ives, Armstrong, Ray Charles, Gershwin and a few other composers - but not Tchaikovsky. I like the idea of kind of expanding our idea of Independence Day music beyond cannons and marches. :)

Here's the list, if you're interested: http://www.sfcv.org/article/top-10-classical-tunes-for-a-4th-of-july-bbq

Jul. 04 2012 04:44 PM
Harry from NJ


Jul. 04 2012 02:31 PM

Great music is great music no matter how old it is. Today's uneducated masses have never been exposed to the great classial music of 200-300 years ago. The music today is mostly noise and decent music ended around the turn of the century. Only fools think that music has to be "current" to be good. The 1812 Overture is still great music. As is Wellington's Victory.

Jul. 04 2012 02:24 PM
Jeff from Jerusalem

Yes it is a beautiful piece of music, but how many times can someone listen to the same warhorse. Heavens forbid we play something new, and even contemporary. This is why classical music is losing its audience (especially with the young). WQXR even has a companion station called Q2 which plays a rich mix of modern music, yet I would bet that not a single person writing into this forum has listened to it for an hour. Variety is the spice of life.

Jul. 04 2012 02:08 PM
David from Flushing

The only reason the 1812 Overture is even considered for the 4th is because there are cannons in it. Playing a piece containing a hymn to the Czar seems historically out of place during a celebration of the overthrow of monarchy.

I would hope there would be enough Amercian music available for use on the 4th. It is sad to consider how many great composers were around during the final decades of the 19th century conpared to other eras. It would seem that by the time the US came of age culturally, classical music was past its prime.

Jul. 04 2012 12:23 PM
Leslie Carone from Westchester County, NY

I attended a fireworks display last evening, and someone was playing jazz on their car radio, very loudly (I could hear it through my earplugs!) I enjoy jazz, but it sounded truly out of place there. Give me the 1812 Overture, Stars and Stripes Forever, and all the other wonderful Sousa marches any day. Next year, I will bring my own soundtrack. Shame on Macy's!

Jul. 04 2012 12:04 PM
Suzanne from New York

Well, I guess Macys has given me one more reason to avoid traveling downtown this Fourth of July . . . I'm glad now that I have a ticket to the NY Phil concert on July 9 where the 1812 Overture WILL be heard.
As David said, anything can become a cliche if overplayed. But the 1812 Overture is a great piece by a composer I will love until the day I die. I make sure I never overplay it, and it thrills me nearly every time I hear it.

Jul. 04 2012 11:47 AM
Florida Yankee from Orlando

In Boston it is tradition. To remove it would be "sacrilege "!

It is a beutiful piece it you listen from beginning to end. So many people only recognize that last few minutes, and burst into applause at the familiar sections. An appreciation for this type of music has to be cultivated and not many today in general have had that type of education in schools or at home. I grew up in the sixties and it seemed to be everywhere.

Jul. 04 2012 11:34 AM
Charles from Berkshires, Mass.

That Facebook results determine the music for Macy's is just one more reason while I'll be watching fireworks from Boston. I cannot tolerate the dreck that passes for "July 4th" or "patriotic" songs. "Holiday" by Madonna??

Jul. 04 2012 11:14 AM
bookquilt from Queens, NY

The magnificent 1812 Overture is timeless and moving. It connects us to so many struggles all over the world.
That the great cultural illiterates of Facebook were polled is meaningless to me. Macy's is a commercial enterprise; so is the fireworks show.

Jul. 04 2012 11:10 AM
Brother Gabriel Monarch, O.H.




Jul. 04 2012 09:48 AM
Jordan Rab from Rio de Janeiro

Has 'The 1812' lost its boom? Well, has 'Mona Lisa's smile become gnarled? Is Mickey Mouse passé? the works of Walt Whitman?

Jul. 04 2012 07:55 AM

Anything becomes cliche when it is played over and over again. obviously. However, unlike Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York for every Yankee home game, playing the 1812 on the 4th only happens once a year. of course, I don't wait until July 4th to blast mine anytime I want that july 4th kind of feeling. Any piece of music can be reborn. I think for most of the listening public, with the amount of classical music they listened to, I'm sure it's not old for them and I'd vote for keeping it.

Jul. 04 2012 07:45 AM
Gev Sweeney from Ocean Grove, New Jerssey

Not surprised Macy's ignored the 1812. They're marketing Macy's, not WQXR or classical music. It's going to be all about allying the Macy's brand with popular entertainers and American sentimentality, which Macy's obviously believes has nothing to do with a guy named Tchaikovsky.

Jul. 04 2012 07:03 AM
Cathryn D'Arcy from Chattanooga, TN

It should be played as 2012 is the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812.

Jul. 03 2012 11:00 PM
Michael from New York

Boston Pops Orchestra still do the 1812 on every one of their Fourth of July Concerts

Jul. 03 2012 09:21 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

It seems like public opinion has turned against the 1812 Overture, at least where some of the major fireworks events are concerned. The last time I recall seeing the "Capitol 4th" production, the work was started at "La Marseillaise" to perhaps have an eager audience get to the first round of cannon shots sooner rather than later. While it would be cost prohibitive considering the extra musicians and cannon shots involved, my vote would be for Beethoven's "Wellington's Victory," as it would bring different melodies to tired ears. The events of the work take place only one year after 1812 and is approx 16 minutes in length keeping it within the time constraints of Tchaikovsky's opus although neither piece ties into our 4th of July celebration. If we were to follow our heritage and be musically accurate, I would pick James Hewitt's "The Battle Of Trenton (1797)." Originally a keyboard sonata and dedicated to George Washington, it was painstakingly transcribed for band on the occasion of our bicentennial and could be easily arranged for symphony orchestra. Hearing selections from the musical "1776" would be fun as well provided the evening was capped off with a rousing rendition of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars & Stripes Forever!" A very happy and safe 4th to all!

Jul. 03 2012 08:59 PM

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