We’ve put together some great tunes you can play as a festive backdrop to your 4th of July celebrations! On this list, here are some orchestra pops classics (hey 1812 Overture!) as well as some tributes to America’s cultural heritage (West Side Story has amazing music). So pull out your picnic blankets and sunscreen and get ready for some musical fireworks.
Check out the Spotify playlist online here or keep scrolling to learn a little more about each piece.
Tchaikovsky- 1812 Overture
No 4th of July pops concert is complete without the 1812 Overture. Though it actually has nothing at all to do with the United States (it was written for Russia’s defense against Napoleon), it’s still a great way to celebrate. If you see if performed at an outdoor concert, the big “booms” at the end are often played by actual cannons.
John Philip Sousa- Stars and Stripes Forever
This is an American classic. It’s the national march of the U.S. and includes one of the most famous piccolo solos.
Leroy Anderson- Bugler’s Holiday
Written by the famous American composer Leroy Anderson, this piece exemplifies 20th century American band music. It features a trumpet chorus that imitates the sound of bugles, a similar style brass instrument to the trumpet without valves that is often used in fanfares or military settings.
Aaron Copland- Fanfare for the Common Man
Aaron Copland is another famous 20th century American composer. This piece has been used in many successful movies, TV shows, and at important cultural events since it was written over 75 years ago.
John Philip Sousa- The Washington Post
Johan Strauss II may have been known as The Waltz King, but the title of March King belongs to American composer John Philip Sousa. Along with Stars and Stripes Forever, it is one of the most popular marches throughout the U.S. and abroad.
John Williams- Sound the Bells!
John Williams is one of the most important composers of the late 20th century and we had to include some of his music on this list! He is well known for triumphant brass fanfares, soaring strings, and exciting percussion, and this piece does not let him down!
Leonard Bernstein- West Side Story Medley
West Side Story is a modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, but is a truly iconic peak at American life in the 20th Century. Bernstein’s music (and Steven Sondheim’s lyrics) cemented West Side Story as one of the most important musicals ever written.
Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor- 1B
Performed by three of America’s most talented musicians, this piece is an amazing mix of bluegrass and classical music.
Scott Joplin- The Entertainer
The Entertainer is an important example of ragtime music. Created in the US in the late 1800s, ragtime was inspired by both African American music and the marches popular at the time. It’s called ragtime because of its use of syncopated, or ragged, rhythms.
George Gershwin- An American in Paris
Gershwin is another one of America’s most important 20th century composers. In this piece he seamlessly combines orchestral writing with quintessential American music, jazz.
George Gershwin- Rhapsody in Blue
This is another Gershwin hit that combines jazz and classical music. It was originally written for solo piano and jazz band, but the orchestra version contains that famous long opening note by the clarinet that the piece is so well-known for.
George Frideric Handel- Concerto grosso: Music for the Royal Fireworks
Though this piece was composed 28 years before the US even became a country, we had to include it because, hey, fireworks!
We hope you have a wonderful 4th of July full of great food, impressive fireworks, and great music!