The National Music of America - online book

The Sources & Factors Influential In Forming America's Music.

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152 The National Music of America.
the event should have taken place within their walls, and on the day of the signing proposed a serenade to the two embassies. They knew the English tune well enough, but what was the American national hymn ?J In much perplexity the bandmaster went to Henry Clay to inquire about it. Of course he was told that our chief national melody was "Yankee Doodle." As he did not know the tune he begged Mr. Clay to hum
1 Although this story has been current since Clay's time, it requires some emendation. The people of Ghent certainly knew of one American tune at this time, — " Hail Columbia; " for this was performed on the twenty-seventh of October, 1814, when the Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts of Ghent invited the American commissioners to attend their exercises. A sumptuous dinner followed, at which the chief magistrate of Ghent offered the following toast, " Our distinguished guests and fellow-members, the American ministers, — may they succeed in making an hon­ourable peace to secure the liberty and independence of their country," after which the band played " Hail Colum­bia." The British commissioners were not present at this meeting. It is probable that the bandmaster above men­tioned wished to play several American airs to fill out the proper length of a serenade, and that this led to the whistling of " Yankee Doodle " as stated.
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