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How Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture Became a July 4th Tradition

Date: 7/3/2013

Every Fourth of July, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is heard all over the country. The question is, how did this Russian composition, celebrating the Russian victory over the French in their War of 1812 (not even ours), become a staple of the United States' Independence Day celebrations?

We can thank the Boston Pops. In the early 1970's, concerts held on the Esplanade were declining in popularity. The Boston Pops needed something to attract the interest of the public once again, something with oomph. Someone came up with the idea to perform Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with cannons, church bells, and fireworks. With the Esplanade being an outdoor venue, this was all possible. So, the following year, on July 4th, 1974, Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops for its first (of many to come) July 4th performance of the 1812 Overture. It was a hit, and now, the Boston Pops' Fourth of July Extravaganza is an event America looks forward to each year.

Tomorrow, Keith Lockhart will lead the Boston Pops in the annual performance, which will be broadcast on CBS (check your local listings). Maestro Lockhart, whom we had with us conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra just a few months ago, will return to Orange County with the Boston Pops this fall. You really don't want to miss this performance.

For now, here's a teaser of the festivities to come tomorrow.

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