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Why Tchaikovsky's Bells And Cannons Sound Every July 4

The Boston Pops rehearses for its Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on July 3, 2012, at the Charles River Esplanade.
Paul Marotta
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Getty Images
The Boston Pops rehearses for its Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on July 3, 2012, at the Charles River Esplanade.

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and on the big day, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture will be heard from coast to coast, complete with fireworks and cannons. But how did a Russian composition, depicting the rout of Napoleon's Army, end up as the unofficial soundtrack for our most quintessentially American holiday?

NPR's Scott Simon spoke to two folks who know the answer. David Mugar, executive producer of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, recounts firsthand how the piece was deployed to turn around the annual concert's flagging popularity in the 1970s; he's joined here by Boston Pops music director Keith Lockhart. Click the audio link to hear their conversation.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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