Fanfares for the Common Man on July 4

One of the most frequently played musical tributes in July 4th concerts is Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. 

He wrote Fanfare in response to a 1942 request from  the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as the US became became fully involved in World War II.

As a musical form, a fanfare is usually a brief, musical introduction to some  noteworthy person, ceremony or event.  Fanfares announce the appearance of Royalty in Europe, open the  Olympic games, precede important national or military occasions and celebrate events such as the dedication of a memorial or new public space.

By this time Copland had  composed a wide variety of scores for orchestra, dance, film and drama that portrayed uniquely American sounds. Compositions such as Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring evoke scenes of our country from the expansive West to the modern city.

Here is an example of Copland conducting Hoedown from the ballet Rodeo.  Get ready to dance along with him on the podium!

Copland considered multiple names for his new composition including “Fanfare for the Day of Victory,” “Fanfare for Our Heroes,” “Fanfare for the Spirit of Democracy,” “Fanfare for the Paratroops” before Fanfare for the Common Man.   The phrase had been used by Vice President Henry Wallace who called the 20th century the Century for the Common Man.

The music is martial, dramatic, easy to follow and heroic in feeling.  He wanted to honor the ordinary people who were doing the fighting and dying in the war.   It is still the most popular piece in patriotic concerts.

One person upon hearing the music wrote:  I would love this as the anthem of humanity, the song of farmers, cobblers, men who were raised from the land, staring into the night sky at the fat moon and saying, “I am going there,” and never once doubting his words.

The version which follows is the one that you will hear across the country today.


Another Salute to the Common Man

Few of us will compose music to communicate a vision.  Most will use the spoken or written word.   What follows is from a life dedicated to Copland’s Common Man:

“My life has been centered around my family, my wife Jean, and credit unions. Why credit unions? Because I could never accept that in America those who had the least and knew the least should always pay the most for financial services.

“I believe that credit unions were created to correct that injustice. In the words of Thomas Paine – a true revolutionary in all respects –“I have always objected to wealth achieved through the misery and misfortune of others”.

“That economic injustice continues to thrive in our financial system today. Credit unions remain the alternative, the best hope, the answer.

“We all confront an uncertain future, and many folks would like to rewrite the past. You and I know we cannot change the past. But if we have credit union leaders with integrity, courage and character; we most certainly can reshape the future…but changing the future is very hard work.

“Arthur Ashe, the great American tennis player, described the credit union leaders we need. Ashe said: “ True leadership is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, true leadership is the urge to serve all others at whatever cost.”. . .

(The words by Jim Blaine, former CEO of State Employees NC,  to the African American Credit Union Coalition upon his induction to its Hall of Fame)

Two tributes on July 4th  to celebrate liberty for all and especially the contributions of the Common Man.

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