no national anthem seems to be as co-opted as La Marseillaise and i know that i first became familiar with it as a theme in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. i don’t know what it is about the anthem but it lends itself to pop culture references. my favorite is in the musical The Barkleys of Broadway. Ginger Rogers’s character who has left the world of musical comedy (and her somewhat controlling husband in Fred Astaire) to be wooed into a life on the dramatic stage. Her debut was as the actress Sarah Bernhardt in the play “Young Sarah”. the one scene we see is the young actress reciting Le Marseillaise and winning over the hearts of a panel of acting teachers. the play is a hit…and we all learn the words to the French national anthem. it’s brilliant and riveting.
and then there’s Berlioz.
“We struck up the Marseillaise. Almost at once a holy stillness fell upon the seething mass at our feet. After each refrain there was a profound silence. This is not at all what I had expected. On beholding that vast concourse of people I recalled that I had just arranged Rouget de Lisle’s song for double chorus and full orchestra, and that where one normally writes ‘tenors and basses’ I had written instead ‘everyone with a voice, a soul and blood in his veins.’ After the fourth verse I could contain myself no longer, and I yelled, ‘Confound it all – sing!’ The great crowd roared out its Aux armes citoyens! with the power and precision of a trained choir.”
enjoy and happy Bastille day!