Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July 2011!

Boston Pops Concert on the Charles River, July 4, 2010--Finale.

When I was thinking about July 4th this year, 2 themes emerged. The first was the kindness of American people, and how one may take exception to both the government and the media, yet appreciate the Americans one meets when travelling or living in the US or abroad, and of course those who are valued friends, and colleagues. Among these treasures one can count those met in the blogosphere!

Malik Tubaishat, "Jaraad", a Jordanian-Syrian PhD student of Engineering in the US, and blogger at Jaraad, has written a touching post on the topic of the positive experiences he has had with Americans, from the perspective of an Arab in the US, The Arabic guide to living in the US: The 4th of July. It is also part of a series of posts that form a guide for Arabs going to or living in the US, which he introduced in the post Living in the United States, and began with The Arabic guide to living in the US–The Law (Part 1/2).

The other theme that came to my mind when thinking of July 4th this year was that of the actual celebrations of July 4th. BBQs, picnics, and fireworks are staples of this celebration, which Americans and their guests enjoy, no matter where they are in the world. I described one of my own experiences as a guest of Americans celebrating in France, in last year's post, Happy 4th of July!,  which also includes more history, and an interesting collection of photos by Americans of what the 4th of July means to them.

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, image of their 2010 July 4th concert

This year I was surprised to learn of the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular 4th of July concert on the Charles River, and its "bang up" finish with fireworks to the closing of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. I was surprised because I thought this is the sort of thing I would know about, being a fan of Boston, the mission of the Boston Pops, and of Tchaikovsky. His 1812 Overture was one of my Dad's favourites, so I was well aware of it.

Not to mention, we had just had a conversation with my (soon to be 12-year-old) nephew about the US-British War of 1812-14. It was a conversation that came up spontaneously as we passed one of the battlefields and its monument, but gave him a preview of his Grade 7 history curriculum. He was appropriately patriotic for the British--once we reminded him that was the Canadian side, as British soldiers born in British North America, later to become Canada (1867), played an important military role. He particularly enjoyed the idea of burning down the White House--because if you can't blow something up in a war, the next best thing is to burn it down, right? At least it is so in the imagination of a young boy.

However, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture celebrates the Russian victory over the Napoleonic French, and is notable for its integration of cannon fire into the score.  The British helped the Russians only incidentally, by occupying the French elsewhere, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815.  The victory was more of a freeze out, than a burn down, or a blow up. The score itself incorporates a number of patriotic songs, notably "God Save the Tsar!"

I was even more surprised, when I looked for a video of the annual Boston Pops 4th of July concert, to discover that the relevant clip began with "God Save the Queen!", which all Canadians recognize from the first few notes. My mind did a rapid run through of the hypothesis that they were starting with a pre-Revolutionary "God Save the King!", before remembering that "Oh yeah, they do something to it, and think it is still theirs"..."My Country 'Tis of Thee"--the words reminded me of what, right on cue.


Happy 4th of July, Americans!

4th of July fireworks, Charles River, Boston

4 comments:

jaraad said...

Oh, wow! I don't know what to say but thank you. I always appreciate your support, comments and feedback.
It seems 7 grade history is informative to everyone not just your nephew. I would never expect Tchaikovsky to play on the 4th of July, the irony :)

Susanne said...

"Oh yeah, they do something to it, and think it is still theirs"...

Ha! :)

oby said...

We improve it...hahahahaha!!!! (just kidding)

We'd look a little funny singing "God save the Queen" although I just LOVE Queen Elizabeth and think she's had a very interesting monarchy!

Chiara said...

Jaraad-You are welcome, and I hope others follow up on reading these posts and others on your blog.
The ironies of the Tchaikovsky tradition are multiple. It was started by founding conductor of the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler, and has caught on across the country. Rousing and booming it is! Thanks for your comment.

Susanne and Oby--thanks for your comments. I was hoping some Americans would respond to that accurate rendering of my thoughts. :D

Queen Elizabeth II has had a very interesting monarchy, in part because of her and its longevity, and in part because of the events of the last half of the 20th century to now--with major social and political shifts. She now seems to be deftly ensuring the continuance of the monarchy by foregrounding William and Kate in the hopes that Charles and Camilla will reign briefly and uneventfully.

God Save America 'Tis of Thee! :D :P

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