Friends and families gathering for cookouts in backyards and parks. Burgers and hot dogs smoking on the grill. Games on the lawn. Firecrackers and sparklers. “The Star-Spangled Banner” being played. Community firework displays. These are just a few of the sights and sounds of a traditional Fourth of July celebration.
And for millions of Americans, tuning in to “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS has been a part of their Independence Day celebrations for the past 41 years.
The National Symphony Orchestra began performing Independence Day concerts on the west lawn of the U. S. Capitol building in 1979. A year later, PBS started televising the show. The first telecast was hosted by E. G. Marshall, with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the orchestra and legendary musical star Pearl Bailey performing live. Four decades later, “A Capitol Fourth” is the highest-rated show on PBS.
Even people who don’t typically watch PBS find themselves switching to the channel on the evening of July 4 to watch fireworks displays and 90 minutes of patriotic music performed by some of the biggest names in showbusiness — all live from our nation’s capital. Because the broadcast is repeated throughout the night, one can tune into the festivities regardless of the hour.
A monumental amount of work goes on behind the scenes of “A Capitol Fourth” to bring the sights and sounds of the concert to the millions of viewers watching at home. More than twenty television cameras will be stationed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and around Washington, D.C. to capture the show and spectacular fireworks display.
For lovers of American music, the show never fails to deliver.
Celebrating his tenth anniversary as Music Director of “A Capitol Fourth,” Maestro Jack Everly will proudly conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in this year’s patriotic celebration on the National Mall.
The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets — the official fanfare ensemble for the President of the United States — will also be featured in this year’s lineup.
The Singing Sergeants, the official chorus of the U.S. Air Force, will add their voices to the festivities. One of the world’s most versatile and traveled choral organizations, the chorus was formed in 1945 from within the ranks of the U.S. Air Force and is composed entirely of professional vocalists from leading colleges and universities throughout the world, who are all sergeants in the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Army Chorus and The Soldiers’ Chorus will also lift their voices in song. And as in previous years, a host of popular singers, actors and entertainers will join the celebration.
“For four decades “A Capitol Fourth” has paid tribute to our nation’s birthday and the hopes and dreams of all Americans,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This year, our broadcast will reflect what we as a country have faced and the challenges ahead while showcasing our message of inclusion, patriotism, and love.”
“A Capitol Fourth” will broadcast live on WHRO Channel 15 at
8:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 4, with reruns beginning at 9:30 p.m.
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