The Big Top World

Mysterious Circus LogoI didn’t know until a few days that there was such a thing as World Circus Day-primarily because I didn’t look it up until the other day, curious as to whether something like that existed or not. And in case you are at all interested, it is on the third Saturday of every April.

Personally, I don’t particularly care much for circuses, and this is for two reasons: the mistreatment of circus animals, and clowns.
Maybe all circuses don’t mistreat their animals, and some don’t use animals at all. Nonetheless, there have been many reports about circus animals being abused, and in my opinion, the animals probably don’t enjoy being forced to perform on a regular basis.

On to my second point-clowns. I am terrified of clowns, as many people are. Even Ronald McDonald creeps me out, (in fact, to me, he is one of the creepiest clowns-after the one from “It”). I’ve never seen the movie and lack any desire to see it, however I often see the movie for sale, and the cover on the DVD case shows the clown. It freaks me out anytime I see it and I literally run away from it even when I’m inside a video store, I just run down a different aisle. So in short, the sight of a clown reduces me to a frightened little girl.

I have been to the circus, just once, when I was little, but I don’t really remember much about it. And I think I may really enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show.
Now, all that being said, I absolutely and surprisingly love books, stories, poems, movies, songs, and art that in any way depicts circuses or the circus life.  It’s inexplicable as I don’t like real circuses.

Circus-Fantasy Under the Big Top

Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top edited by Ekaterina Sedia.

A few examples: I recently read The Night Circus by Stephanie Morgenstern and I absolutely loved it! I was sad when it was over. Prior to that I also read a book called, Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top, edited by Ekaterina Sedia. This book contained a collection of short stories by various authors, and each story had something to do with a circus.

There is a song from 1974 by Three Dog Night called “The Show Must Go On” where being stuck in a circus life is used metaphorically to refer to making the right and wrong decisions in life. In the same year, there was also “Sideshow” by the Stylistics. It is not about a circus per se, but it has the opening with the Master of Ceremonies calling out, “Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! See the saddest show in town for only 50 cents!”. The sideshow however is comprised of those who have had their hearts broken.

Then there is Journey’s 1983 song “Faithfully.” It is about a music man who is touring, and the hardships of raising a family while on the road. It was written by Jonathan Cain, the keyboard player for Journey, about how being a married man on tour in a rock band can be difficult on the relationship. The cirucs theme in this however, is alluded to mostly in the third verse of the song.

And of course, as a huge Beatles fan, I must include “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, which was on their 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Julius Fucik 3

Julius Fučík          (1872-1916)

However, while we are this on theme of circus-related songs, I must mention Julius Fučík. He was a Czech composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in Prague, Bohemia on July 18, 1872. As a student, Fučík  learned to play the bassoon, the violin, and a variety of percussion instruments. He later studied composition as well. He joined the 49th Austro-Hungarian Regiment as a military musician in 1891. Three years later, Fučík would leave the military so that he could take up the position of second bassoonist at the German Theatre. During which time, he also wrote several chamber music pieces.

So what does this man have to do with the circus? You might well ask. And I’m getting there.

Fučík would rejoin the army and be the bandmaster of the 86th Infantry Regiment. Shortly after this, he would write his most famous piece: “Einzug der Gladitoren”, or “Entrance of the Gladiators”, sometimes called “Entry of the Gladiators”.

Never heard of it? Quite possible. But you have probably heard it. It is the piece of music that is often used in circuses, and is mostly used to introduce the fear-inducing clowns. Nevertheless, I love this music; when I hear it, I can’t help but think of the circus. And if you listen to the above-mentioned, “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, you will hear, and probabl, recognize, it. It is the intro music to the song. And “Sideshow” by the Stylistics, also plays this music in the background, under the voice of the MC, yet this is a more stylized and slower version of it.

Now “Entrance of the Gladiators” was not written for use in a circus environment. The name derived from Fučík’s interest in the Roman Empire, (he changed it from it’s first title “Grande Marche Chromatique”), and it was originally written as a military march; if you listen to the entire score, it does sound like a military march as the music progresses.Entry of the Gladiators

In North America, in 1910, Canadian composer, Louis-Philipp Laurendeau, arranged “Entrance of the Guardians” for a small band, and he sold his version of it throughout North America, under the title “Thunder and Blazes”.  And this is when the score became popular for use in circuses, though in the Czech Republic, “Entrance of the Guardians” is still played today as patriotic music. His other well-known musical score is “The Florentiner March”.

Fučík’s military band was based in Sarajevo, and in 1900 moved to Budapest. There was a lot of competition there at the time, but he did find eight regimental bands that were willing to play his music. Then years later, Fučík returned to Bohemia, becoming the bandmaster of the 92nd Regiment in Theresienstadt;  a military fortress and walled garrison of the time, located in the Czech Republic. He toured with this regiment to Prague and Berlin, giving concerts to audiences of more than ten-thousand people.

He started his own band in 1913 and his own music publishing company, in Berlin, where he eventually settled. The band was called Prager Tonkünstler-Orchester; the music publishing company was called Tempo Verlag, and Fučík created it in order to market his compositions.

But then, in 1914, WWI happened, and his fortunes began to lessen. Due to the economic hardships caused by the war, Fučík’s business failed, and his health began to suffer as well. He died two years later on November 26, 1916 in Berlin; he was only forty-four years old. He is now buried at Vinohrady Cemetery in Prague.

Blue Circus Tent