Ice House

I Hear America Singing: Houston Edition

On occasion of the Fourth of July, a meditation on those booming cannons, on Walt Whitman’s famous poem and on viola jokes.

By Katharine Shilcutt June 20, 2016 Published in the July 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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On the occasion of the annual Fourth of July festivities at Miller Outdoor Theatre—which includes a massive fireworks display and a free performance of the 1812 Overture by the Houston Symphony, complete with cannon salute—a meditation
on those booming cannons, on Walt Whitman (upon whose stirring poem, “I Hear America Singing,” we have riffed), and on viola jokes.

I hear the cannons firing, the varied shots I hear,
Those of Miller Outdoor Theatre, each one ringing out as it should be blithe and strong,
The cannonier singing his as he measures his tube or breech,
(Actually, we’re not quite sure how cannons work, or if the men who operate them are called cannoniers,
But there’s something romantic about the idea of them being called that, so we’ll stick with it.)
The cannonier singing as he loads his muzzle, the conductor singing as he conducts,
The Symphony’s song, the First Chair First Violin on his way as he leads the 1812 Overture at sundown,
(And makes viola jokes because that’s what you do),
The delicious singing of the audience, or of the young children at play on the grassy lawn, or of the grackle pecking or stealing picnic foods,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The Fourth of July what belongs to the Fourth of July—at night the party of Houstonian fellows, robust, friendly,
At night the party of cannons firing, recoiling,
At night the party of fireworks blasting, sparkling,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights: A Star-Spangled Salute July 4, 8:30 p.m. Free. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Dr.

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