Authorization for the National Symphony Orchestra to Perform a Concert Series on the Capitol Grounds
On this date, Representative Sidney R. Yates of Illinois introduced H. Con. Res. 133, a bill authorizing the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) to perform an annual series of four free concerts on the Capitol Grounds. This resolution formalized Fourth of July festivities at the Capitol. Formerly, major events took place on the National Mall and Washington Monument grounds under names like the “Cavalcade of Freedom,” which occurred in early July during the 1940s. They largely featured military bands and the familiar flashy fireworks, and were usually sponsored by local organizations alongside the National Park Service. At the same time, the NSO held regular Independence Day concerts in various venues across the city. In 1979, Congress first authorized the NSO to use the Grounds for four concerts, and then renewed the authority in 1980. In each instance, the resolutions passed by voice vote. These four concerts included Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and a floating fourth concert which was later discontinued. Concerts by bands on the Capitol Grounds were not uncommon; the Marine Band performed frequently on the East Front lawn during summer. By authorizing annual use in 1981, however, Congress removed the need to reauthorize each year as it does for other events on the Capitol Grounds such as the Soap Box Derby and National Peace Officer’s Memorial. The 1981 broadcast of “A Capitol Fourth,” televised for the first time by local PBS station WETA, mixed popular singers, national bands, and dazzling fireworks displays and created an annual viewing tradition for Americans nationwide.