About this Recording
8.559058 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 1 (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)
English 

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Music for Wind Band Vol. 1

 

John Philip Sousa personified turn-of-the-century America, the comparative Innocence and brash energy of a still new nation. His ever touring band represented America across the globe and brought music to hundreds of American towns. John Philip Sousa, born on 6 November 1854, reached this exalted position with startling quickness. In 1880, at the age of 26, he became conductor of the U.S. Marine Band. In twelve years the vastly improved ensemble won high renown and Sousa’s compositions earned him the title of “The March King.” Sousa went one better with the formation of his own band in 1892, bringing world acclaim.

In its first seven years the band gave 3500 concerts; in an era of train and ship travel it logged over a million miles in nearly four decades. There were European tours in 1900, 1901, 1903, and 1905, and a world tour in 1910–11, the zenith of the band era.

The unprecedented popularity of the Sousa Band came at a time when few American orchestras existed. From the Civil War to about 1920, band concerts where the most important aspect of musical life in the United States of America. No finer band than Sousa’s was ever heard. Sousa modified the brass band by decreasing the brass and percussion instruments, increasing its woodwinds, and adding a harp. His conducting genius attracted the finest musicians, enabling him to build an ensemble capable of executing programmes almost as varied as those of a symphony orchestra. The Sousa Band became the standard by which American bands were measured nationally, causing a dramatic upgrading in quality.

Sousa’s compositions also spread his fame. Such marches as The Stars and Stripes Forever, El Capitan, Washington Post, and Semper Fidelis are universally acknowledged as the best of the genre. Sousa said a march “should make a man with a wooden leg step out,” and his surely did. Although he standardised the march form as it is known today, he was no mere maker of marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of over two hundred works, including symphonic poems, suites, operas and operettas. His principles of instrumentation and tonal colour influenced many classical composers. His robust, patriotic operettas of the 1890s helped introduce a truly native musical attitude in American theatre.

Sousa: Works for Wind Band, Volume I

The library of Sousa’s Band contained over ten thousand titles. Among them are the numerous band compositions of Sousa. This new series, ‘Sousa: Works for Wind Band’ seeks to record them for the world to hear.

[1] Hands Across the Sea (1899)

In 1899 Sousa planned to take his band to the 1900 Paris Exposition. Sousa wrote about the march: “After the Spanish / American War there was feeling overseas against our republic regarding this war. Some of the nations…thought we were not justified, while others gave us credit for the honesty of our purpose. One night…I came across this line, ‘A sudden thought strikes me, let us swear an eternal friendship.’ That suggested the title Hands Across the Sea”.

[2] Manhattan Beach (1893)

Sousa said: “I wrote Manhattan Beach while playing a summer engagement at that once popular Resort”. In his interpretation of the march, the final sections suggest rolling ocean waves as one strolls along the beach. A band is heard in the distance growing louder, then fading away.

Looking Upward Suite (1902)

Regarded as one of Sousa’s most serious compositions, it is also likely the first major twentieth-century wind work by an American. There are three movements:

[3] By the Light of the Polar Star

The inspiration for the suite, and particularly the first movement appeared on a crisp South Dakota night while Sousa looked at the heavens from his train.

[4] Beneath the Southern Cross

An advertisement for the steamship Southern Cross sparked this movement.

[5] Mars and Venus

Inspired by the heavens, Mars is portrayed as a wild west cowboy with Venus as his love interest. A storm scene ensues, Mars returns and the two are intertwined.

[6] The Invincible Eagle (1901)

Sousa thought this march would become his greatest hit. If it did not, it is surely one of his finest. Sousa commented: “The new march, The Invincible Eagle, is what I call one of my sunshine marches. Some of my heavy marches are intended to convey the impression of the stir and strife of warfare, but The Invincible Eagle shows the military spirit at its lightest and brightest—the parade spirit. In fact, with the bravery of uniform, the sheen of silken stands, and the gleam of polished steel and all its other picturesque features.”

[7] Hail to the Spirit of Liberty (1900)

Composed for the Sousa Band’s appearance at the 1900 Paris Exposition, it was first played there on the 4th July for the unveiling of the Lafayette Monument. Following that, the band did a rare parade through the streets of Paris.

[8] Colonial Dames Waltz (1896)

Contrary to popular opinion, Sousa composed many waltzes, relishing that form. Many of them were orchestral compositions, used as ballads in his operettas, but Colonial Dames, first published for piano in a ladies magazine, became a popular feature on Sousa’s band concerts.

[9] Imperial Edward (1902)

The Sousa Band played a command performance at Sandringham in England in 1901. Afterwards, Sousa requested permission to dedicate a march to His Majesty the King. The manuscript is now at the British Library. God Save the King, appears by surprise, intoned by the trombones.

[10] Foshay Tower Washington Memorial (1929)

William B. Foshay a Minneapolis businessman, who had constructed a new downtown skyscraper designed to resemble the Washington Monument, wanted a march for the dedication. Sousa’s Band played it in daily concerts. Two months later, the stock market crash entangled Foshay in legal difficulties that led to his imprisonment. To protect Sousa’s reputation, his family impounded the score, finally releasing his happy march over fifty years later.

[11] Humoresque on George Gershwin’s ‘Swanee’ (1920)

To delight his public, Sousa fondly grafted popular tunes into clever arrangements. He called these humoresques. Swanee is based on the Gershwin / Caesar tune from Sinbad made memorable in Al Johnson’s recording. Sousa’s variations include sly commentaries on the lyrics and liberally quotes from Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here, Listen to the Mocking Bird, Dixie, and Old Folks at Home. After its fade-away ending, Sousa often launched into one of Fillmore’s raucous trombone smears.

[12] Daughters of Texas (1929)

Sousa hurriedly gave his first try for a march for the students at Texas Women’s University to Foshay for the dedication of his tower, so he then returned to his muse to create one of his most graceful and delightful marches, Daughters of Texas.

[13] Kansas Wildcats (1928)

The brilliant march Kansas Wildcats was composed on request for Kansas State University in Manhattan KS. The trio captures the mood of the roaring twenties with a catchy syncopation.

[14] Power and Glory (1923)

Annual summer engagements at Willow Grove Park, near Philadelphia, led Sousa to write a special march for Thomas Mitten, top executive of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, whose trolleys transported throngs of visitors to and from the park. First titled as March of the Mitten Men it included Mitten’s favorite hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers. Sousa later substituted the more generic title: Power and Glory.


Keith Brion


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