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Philip Phile and “Hail Columbia”

Philip Phile (c.1734–1793) was an American composer and violinist. His year of birth is uncertain, but believed to be approximately 1734. It is believed that he may have been one of a number of German musicians who immigrated to the United States in its earliest years of independence and that his name was originally spelled Pfeil. Phile was a violinist who, by 1779, worked in a New York theater orchestra. His works include a lost Violin Concerto (1787), but he is best known for “Hail Columbia,” originally composed in 1789 as “The President’s March,” written and performed at the inauguration of President George Washington. Joseph Hopkinson, a Philadelphia judge who was the son of the New Jersey patriot Francis Hopkinson. arranged the piece, added the lyrics as an American patriotic song and titled it “Hail Columbia.” Columbia is a poetic name for the United States in use during the 18th century. It was first performed by at the Chestnut Street Theatre on April 25, 1798.

The song is best known under this title and was considered, with several other songs, one of the unofficial national anthems of the United States and was once a strong candidate for U.S. national anthem until 1931, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially named the national anthem. In fact, it was used in the United States as a de facto national anthem for most of the 19th century, but lost popularity after World War I. Today it has, unlike other candidates, such as “America the Beautiful,” been largely forgotten, although it continues to appear in films set in the United States during the nineteenth century. It is now the entrance march, or the official song, for the Vice President of the United States in a similar fashion as “Hail to the Chief” is for the President. When played in honor of the Vice President, the song is always preceded by four ruffles and flourishes. In addition, the song has been used as a slow march during military ceremonies, often while the band counter-marches. It is not to be confused with “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” nor with “Stand Columbia,” the alma mater of Columbia University.

1. Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav’n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.
2. Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore!
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
While off’ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven’s we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.
3. Behold the chief who now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
The rock on which the storm will break,
The rock on which the storm will break,
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav’n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscured Columbia’s day,
His steady mind, from changes free,
Resolved on death or liberty.
4. Sound, sound the trump of fame,
Let Washington’s great name
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Let ev’ry clime to freedom dear,
Listen with a joyful ear,
With equal skill, with God-like pow’r
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier time of honest peace.
Chorus: Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

My collection includes one work by Philip Phile:

Hail Columbia! (originally The President’s March, now the Vice President’s March)


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