July 7, 2015

Patriotic Musical Celebrations: Washington's "A Capitol Fourth" and London's "Last Night of the Proms"

A Capitol Fourth -- Washington
This is the 35th year that PBS has aired the July 4 concert and fireworks. Back in my biking days, I'd often ride down to the concert on the lawn of the Capitol. Once the National Symphony Orchestra began the 1812 Overture, I'd hop on my bike and head for the other end of the mall to watch the fireworks, since I knew they'd start as that piece played.

I gave up biking when Parkinson's began to affect my balance. But I had given up biking to the concert earlier than that, since the security measures after 9/11 took the fun out of it.

I'm not a great Barry Manilow fan, but I enjoyed watching this year's show.

Last Night of the Proms – London
While I've enjoyed the Capitol Fourth concerts, they fade quickly from memory. Not so with the Last Night of the Proms, which I was fortunate enough to attend in 1987 thanks to my dear departed pal Richard Cooper. It was one of my most memorable experiences.

The Proms is an eight-week series of daily concerts held each summer in London, mostly at the Royal Albert Hall. The Last Night is very different from the rest. It usually takes place on the second Saturday in September.

For people who can't attend the concert in Albert Hall, huge TV screens are set up in Hyde Park and elsewhere in the U.K.

The first half of the concert features popular classics, and that part of the program is different every year. But the second half of the concert is what makes the Last Night so memorable. It features a series of British patriotic pieces with lots of audience participation.

I always keep a CD of the Last Night of the Proms in an accessible place at home, and reach for it whenever I want to lift my spirits. I think you'll see why.

Want some more? Here's the finale.

After that rendition of God Save the Queen, shall we try to compete by joining in singing the Star Spangled Banner?

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