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Where's the love for Dudley Buck?

When I wrote yesterday, “For a more glorious Fourth,” about the deplorable prevalence of Tchaikovsky’s shoddy 1812 Overture at Independence Day concerts, I neglected to link to the post by Tim Smith at Clef Notes that inspired my ruminations.

You should have a look to see whether his argument persuades you. Apparently The New York Times found something in it.

There have also been energetic arguments in favor of John Philip Sousa, which I entirely endorse. If you do not have the Delos recording (DE3102) of The Original All-American Sousa by Keith Brion and his New Sousa Band, you might want to get your hands on it. It includes a brief recording of Sousa himself introducing a 1929 performance of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and a handful of other marches, alongside Brion’s vigorous performances.

But as yet there is no groundswell for Dudley Buck’s Festival Overture on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” more’s the pity. I first heard it played on WONO in Syracuse around the time of the Bicentennial. Someone, Henry Fogel or Kaaren Hushagen, had come across a recording and played it on the Fourth. It is not a great piece of music — neither is the 1812 — but in the proper hands it could be a fitting addition to the national repertoire. It is, after all, our own.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:52 PM | | Comments (7)


Hah! Smith capitulates:

WFMT in Chicago is playing a recording of the Buck piece right this minute, on the program "Pipe Dreams," hosted by Michael Barone.

Here's one for your "how did it get past the editor files" (at least in my book).

Kevin Cowherd's column posted today is about the national anthem and how he likes to hear it sung. No problem there.

I do have a little problem when he talks about Francis Scott Key rolling over in his grave if he were to hear what modern vocalists do to "his beloved song."

Maybe I'm just picky, but Key wrote the 'banner' as a poem - and much longer than the first stanza we sing. And I don't think Key was even alive when it was put to music and made a song, let alone named the country's anthem. Well, I'm certain he wasn't alive when it became the anthem officially (20th century).

As for how it's sung... again, no problem there. Except that even the way we 'traditionally' play it is an amped up version of an old drinking song.

The trouble with putting it on the air, is that the announcer has to say " Dudley Buck." It has always sounded cartoonish to me.

Perhaps in this era of "social media" (whatever that is when it's home) someone needs to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account under some label like "Up With Dudley Buck" or "Dudley Buck Rocks!"
(My CAPTCHA fortune cookie reads "Success Buncombe.")

The year I called in all my markers and guilted my friends into going down to DC with me, we sat on the Capitol lawn and heard Ray Charles sing America. I have nothing aginst The Star Spangled Banner, but c' was Ray Charles!

Come on, what about all those non-patriotic Chinese fireworks then? :)

The 1812 Overture tells a story about the Patriotic War of 1812, which was also a fight for independence. It indeed wasn't one of the best pieces written by Tchaikovsky. Nonetheless I think it would make more sense than variations of the national anthem based on something (British in fact) that shouldn't have been used for an anthem of a great nation in the first place ( The 1812 Overture in turn even contains a fragment of La Marseillaise, a once established international anthem of fighters for freedom, although not used in a good sense by Tchaikovsky.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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