“THE STARS AND STRIPES” FOR NEVER
The big top: smell the popcorn; run from the incoming electrical storm. (Wix)
Next time you’re in the circus and the house band starts playing John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, abandon your popcorn, throw the nearest clown out of the way, and run for the exits.
In circus (and, once upon a time, theatrical) contexts, Sousa’s popular Stars and Stripes is infamously known as the “disaster march”: house bands in circuses only ever perform the piece as a warning in times of emergency (like a fire) or imminent danger (like a tornado or flash flood).
Where the tradition comes from is unknown, but it’s thought the piece gained its somewhat unhappy association with disaster after a devastating fire at a circus in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1944.