Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day 2015: As A Band Of Brothers Joined, Peace And Safety We Shall Find

Happy Independence Day!

Liberty Bell postcard, ca. 1905
Tomorrow there will be parades, picnics, fireworks and other holiday festivities honoring the 239th day commemorating the declaration of America's independence from Britain. I'm going to add to the music this year with two pieces that may be unfamiliar to readers. First we have a piece written for George Washington's first inaugural in 1789 by Philip Phile and originally titled, The President's March. Nine year later Joseph Hopkinson added lyrics and the song became known as Hail, Columbia. It was one of several song used as an unofficial national anthem until 1931 when Congress selected The Star Spangled Banner.

Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy'd the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore!
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
While off'ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven's we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.


Behold the chief who now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
The rock on which the storm will break,
The rock on which the storm will break,
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav'n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscured Columbia's day,
His steady mind, from changes free,
Resolved on death or liberty.


Sound, sound the trump of fame,
Let Washington's great name
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Let ev'ry clime to freedom dear,
Listen with a joyful ear,
With equal skill, with God-like pow'r
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier time of honest peace.


Our second piece is by Charles Ives a seriously original composer. He debuted Variations on America on July 4, 1892 to a somewhat shocked audience. The piece wasn't published until 1949 after listeners and the music world began to recognize his genius.  The performance is by the equally original and amazing Virgil Fox. Only once did I see the man in concert. No one will ever take his place.

In the spirit of the freedom of the American Experiment established on July 4, 1776, our cultural experience continues to reinvent itself every day. We can thank the Founding Fathers for that freedom, but with that it comes the awesome responsibility to preserve the system that created and sustains it. I hope you take some time this weekend between the burgers, the parades, the fireworks and whatever to think about that responsibility and resolve to keep our democratic republic strong for ourselves and future generations.



family postcard archive



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