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Bastille Day

posted Jul 14, 2013, 7:30 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 14, 2013, 7:31 AM ]
When angry mobs were storming the Bastille in 1789, "the most important composers in France were foreigners," says National Public Radio commentator Miles Hoffman. "One...very well known in Paris was Joseph Haydn." Haydn was commissioned to write a set of six symphonies, known today as the "Paris" symphonies. One of these, a favorite of Marie Antoinette, was later nicknamed "The Queen."

Outside the ballrooms and concert halls however, the revolution spawned almost 3,000 popular songs. One of the prominent hits of 1790 was Ca ira. Its title was inspired by the much-admired Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin. While living in Paris, he would reportedly reply to inquiries about the American Revolutionary War in somewhat broken French, "Ça ira” ("It'll be fine")!

But outlasting that song, of course, is La Marseillaise. Miles Hoffman continues, "It was written in 1792 by Rouget de Lisle, an army engineer, and picked up by volunteer soldiers marching from Marseille to Paris. They sang it along the way, and it became the unofficial anthem of the revolution. And in 1795 it became the official national anthem of the country."

Did you know thousands of Francophiles invade Smith Street in Boerum Hill each year for a Bastille Day celebration? The festival takes over the north end of the street, with dining and music on Dean Street all day. Smith between Bergen and Pacific streets is covered in sand and divided into courts for the international petanque tournament, a game similar to bocce, with 64–70 teams from around the world competing.

Vive la Brooklyn!