“Day is done; gone the sun from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest; God is nigh” is perhaps the most popular lyric attached to “Taps,” an American bugle call played at dusk to signal “lights out,” at military funerals, and at military ceremonies such as wreath-laying ceremonies at the Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is also used by non-military organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to signal the close of day at meetings and camps.
“Taps” is attributed to Union Army Gen. Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901), who in July 1862 desired a more melodious and musical replacement for a French bugle call “To Extinguish Lights,” which was sounded to signal lights out at the close of a soldier’s day. With the aid of his brigade bugler, Pvt. Oliver Wilcox Norton, Butterfield arranged a new bugle call based on the existing “Scott Tattoo,” a general call used to notify soldiers to cease the evening’s drinking and return to their garrisons. Soon, it became customary at military burials and funerals, and it was officially recognized for use at military funerals in 1891.
By regulation, “Taps” is performed by a single bugle or trumpet in military ceremonies. This harmonized arrangement for concert band is intended for use at church or community observances, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day services and at other non-military events, in remembrance of the lives of the fallen and veterans past.
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