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Celebrate Bastille Day with these 5 traditional French songs

Arc de Triomphe on Bastille Day by Yiwen
Arc de Triomphe with a France national flag on Bastille Day

July 14th is Bastille Day, the national day of France. It marks the fall of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution, which was a turning point in the war. Celebrate by exploring the music of the Revolution and check these French tunes out.

From works that are triumphant and proud to those that are dark and sarcastic, these songs tell a history of revolutionary France.

La Marseillaise

This work is France's national anthem. Originally the anthem of the Revolution, it was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

Ça ira (It’ll be okay)

This unofficial anthem, popular among soldiers and workers of the revolution, was first heard in May 1790. Later versions of the song had lyrics that called for the lynching of the nobility and clergy. It is said, quite ironically, that Queen Marie Antoinette liked to play this song on her harpsichord.

Le Chant du départ

This war song by Étienne Nicolas Méhul and Marie-Joseph Chénier in 1794 was the official anthem of the First French Empire under Napoleon.

Messe des Morts (Requiem)

François Joseph Gossec wrote in 1760, and it was some of the first music used to represent the revolution. It was later was used as tribute music for those that died in the siege at Bastille.

The Carmagnole

First sung in August 1792, this song sarcastically sings about Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who are referred to as Monsieur and Madame Veto. It was used as a rallying cry for revolutionaries and used to insult the aristocracy.

Lauren Zoller is an intern for Classical KC.
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