Above: Iconic painting of Adam Cockburn in front of Washington. “He’s our main villain, and his big song, ‘Too Rocking to Lose,’ is the first number on Sunday.”
This Sunday, Baltimore-based journalist David Dudley and Dave Israel bring the Battle of Baltimore to the Creative Alliance. But instead of muskets and cannon blasts, expect guitar riffs and a light show preview. That’s right, they’re retelling the battle that inspired our National Anthem as a (comedic) rock opera. I was able to talk to Dudley about the upcoming double-song preview event, which will be taped by a Canadian TV station.
What made you and your collaborator want to tackle the Battle of Baltimore?
Well, we first started working on it in the late 90’s, and at the time Dave and I were both living in South Baltimore, a few blocks away from Fort McHenry. We would put on this party every September to celebrate the battle and Baltimore’s victory over the British – we called it the “defender bender.” Over the years we started integrating interactive events into the party, and then Dave and I, who were in a band at the time, began writing songs about the battle, just as a thing to do. We had already been involved in writing another historical rock opera–about the Donner Party–purely for our own amusement. Then we started messing around with the idea of another rock opera, telling the story of the Battle of Baltimore. The subject is so misunderstood–it was battle that had a debatable influence on a war that ended on an ambiguous note. The attraction for us was to explore an event that’s been so mythologized. We didn’t have any real agenda; we just enjoyed using the medium.
And why did you enjoy the medium – why a rock opera?
This is a very traditional rock opera. There’s no dialogue, it’s just a cycle of rock songs that tell a story. It’s kind of a pretentious way to approach it, but it’s also so fundamentally goofy. The framing device of the show is that we’re seeing the very loose semi-accurate memory of a guy trying to explain to his son what the Battle of Baltimore was about – the whole opera is sort of a cartoon version of what really happened.
[Check out the teaser trailer after the jump.]