On this Fourth of July, my wife and I decided to forego dodging scattered rain showers and kids running around with glow sticks, to enjoy a quiet evening at home and East Coast fireworks so that we could go to bed early as we usually do. So, we turned on the TV to see what 4th of July specials were available.
Macy’s was sponsoring an entertainment special that would be capped by fireworks from barges on the East River (I remember enjoying those fireworks back when I lived in Brooklyn Heights). The first act we saw featured Reba McEntire. I like Reba. She’s a good singer and she was great in Tremors (a greatly underappreciated movie). But her song was just a country song, and it did not stir my patriotic feelings. The other acts didn’t seem particularly patriotically oriented either but appeared to be just of bunch of performers trotting out their new singles after being cooped up by Covid for a year.
So we switched to PBS. The first presentation we saw was Pentatonix singing a Broadway song. It was a nice song and Pentatonix is great, but it was not particularly patriotic (it didn’t have a Fourth of July feel to it). The next song was by a performer I didn’t recognize singing a song I didn’t recognize at first. Then I realized she was singing a very strange rendition of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning. But it didn’t sound right.
But modern technology gives people a lot of options. I switched my smart TV over to YouTube and searched for Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and got the movie version of Oklahoma! by Gordon McRae right away. From there, we segued to The Battle Hymn of Republic by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But my favorite version of the Battle Hymn (the one on my playlist) is Judy Collins’ acapella version. So, we watched that one as well.
We were on a roll, so next we watched Ray Charles sing America the Beautiful at Yankee Stadium a few weeks after 9/11. And the only thing that could top that must be Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner. By this time my eyes were streaming (as they are as I write) and I had gone through copious amounts of Kleenex. We continued with some Sousa marches by the U.S. Marine Band and my personal favorite Hands Across the Sea performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. And we still had time to watch the finale of Macy’s fireworks display (accompanied by some majestic but unrecognizable music).
So that’s how I spent my Fourth of July. I hope you enjoyed yours as much as I did.
God Bless America.