As I type this I am listening to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man, for Brass and Percussion” I’ve heard of fanfares for Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Olympic Athletes and other high and mighty personages. There will even be a fanfare for our Lord Jesus when he returns, “for the trumpet shall sound and we shall be raised incorruptible!” Since when does the common man merit a fanfare? The dictionary defines the word as follows: 1
Well, it turns out that there is a story behind his piece. It began on the day of infamy – December 7, 1941 – when the United States was the victim of a surprise attack by the naval and air forces of Japan.
As a result, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before Congress and war was declared. The Japanese had invaded China ten years earlier. The Nazi army had overrun most of Europe in 1939–1940. Then, in 1941, it turned eastward to invade the Soviet Union. The United States had carefully avoided getting drawn into the fight until that day. Japanese planes had struck our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and other Pacific targets in a devastating surprise attack.
The United States quickly began to mobilize for war; a war that would be the broadest and most destructive conflict in human history. It was much more of a conflict than could be won by military leaders, generals, and well-trained troops alone. Every part of American society was part of a mass mobilization across the nation. Men and women enlisted in the military by the millions. Food and fuel were rationed. Businesses, factories, and workers stopped making cars and many consumer goods, and instead manufactured aircraft, tanks, guns, bullets, and bombs. Even school kids were enlisted in collecting scrap metal, rubber, and other materials needed for the war effort.
It turns out that artists, filmmakers, and musicians did their part, too. In 1942 Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony, commissioned 18 composers to write fanfares; rousing inspiring short musical pieces feature brass and percussion in all their stirring glory. “It is my idea to make these fanfares stirring and significant contributions to the war effort,” Goossens explained.
Of those fanfares, one achieved lasting fame … Fanfare for the Common Man, by Aaron Copland. It is indeed a stirring fanfare from the dramatic cadence of the Timpani all the way to the ending orchestral flourish. Listen to it here … you’ll enjoy it!