Viralling around the net this week was the photo above and a description of how composer Igor Stravinsky was arrested on April 15, 1940 by the Boston police for “violating a federal law that prohibited the reharmonization of the National Anthem.” In fact the concert was in January 1944, there is no federal law prohibiting the reharmonization of the Star-Spangled Banner, and Stravinsky was not arrested. The East Coast premiere of Stravinsky’s arrangement had gone well at Cambridge’s Sanders Theater on the 13th and at Boston’s Symphony Hall on the 14th. However, on the following day at Symphony Hall the Boston Police did notify producers that the arrangement was in violation of a Massachusetts law regarding “National anthem; manner of playing.” The piece was dropped from the program that day. The incident did soon established itself as a myth in which Stravinsky was supposedly arrested for playing the music; a myth which continues to propagate, now on the internet.
No stranger to controversy, the riot at Stravinsky’s debut of the Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913 in Paris remains unparalleled in music and has spawned its own myths.
However, the origin of the arrest photograph remains a mystery as of this writing. Orchestral and vocal versions of Stravinsky’s Star-Spangled Banner are linked below. As a patriotic bonus I’ve included a link to the Guckenheimer Sauerkraut Band’s unforgettable Stars & Stripes.