Fourth of July: The Musical

Although the Sheridan Libraries are closed today, there’s still plenty to sing about. In fact, there’s over 200 years’ worth of American patriotic music to belt out while the fireworks go off. 

A great place to begin exploring all that musical treasure is Hopkins’ own, nationally recognized Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, a cornucopia of over 29,000 pieces of American popular music in 38 topical categories spanning the years from 1780 to 1980. One of the collection’s emphases is on patriotic and war-related songs, the latter covering The War of 1812, The Mexican War, The Civil War, The Spanish-American War, World War I, and the military generally. All of the sheet music in the collection published before 1924 (and therefore out of copyright) has been digitized for convenient keyword searching, browsing by topic, viewing online, downloading, and printing. Items published after that date are available in text form only.

Still keen on finding more stirring music? If you're looking for scores, there’s plenty to fire up your patriotic spirit at the Arthur Friedheim Library, which is the music library of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. An online catalog search using the keywords “patriotic music” and limiting the results to include only musical scores yields 49 hits, most of which are housed at the Friedheim (with the rest available at the Eisenhower Library or requestable from the Library Service Center).

The Library of Congress may win the prize for having the most astoundingly vast collection of Americana anywhere. Their Civil War Sheet Music Collection alone contains about 2,500 items from and about that historic conflict. The fine, evocative cover art on these items is by itself worthy of a cyber visit to the LOC website.

Still not finding what you seek? For the last word in American sheet music, visit the website of Duke University’s Music Library and Music Media Center, whose web guide to dozens of sheet music collections throughout the country (most university-based) is a marvelous pathfinder on this topic.

If you simply want to listen to music with a patriotic theme, Friedheim has a sizable collection of available recordings on CD, plus a few links to streaming audio. Just search for “patriotic music,” limit by format to “musical recordings,” and limit by geography to “United States.” See Friedheim's borrowing privileges by affiliation and format here. JHU students who do not attend Peabody can only use CDs on-site at Friedheim.

And if all this music has you itching to get outdoors to share the celebration with your fellow Baltimoreans, come down to the Inner Harbor from noon to ten p.m. for food, patriotic music, and fireworks at the Ports America Chesapeake Fourth of July Celebration.

About Alan Zuckerman

Librarian for Business.

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