About this Recording
8.559092 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 3 (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)
English 

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932):

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932):

Works for Wind Band, Volume 3

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 6th 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 were the most important aspect of American musical life. 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. Sousa’s 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, causing a dramatic upgrading in quality nationally.

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. The library of Sousa’s Band contained over 10,000 titles. Among them are the numerous band compositions of Sousa including the marches and numerous other compositions. The present series, Sousa: Works for Wind Band, seeks to record them for the world to hear.

[1] The Corcoran Cadets (1890)

The march The Corcoran Cadets was composed for a crack Washington DC teenage drill team. Their organization performed with colorful uniforms and bearing wooden rifles. The march was most likely written for the band that accompanied their drill routines.

[2] Semper Fidelis (1888)

Sousa said: "I wrote Semper Fidelis one night while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico". The march takes its title from the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: ‘Semper Fidelis’ - ‘Always Faithful’. It subsequently became the official march of the marines. Sousa regarded it as his best march in a musical sense. It has also become one of his most popular.

[3] Selections from ‘The Free Lance’ (1905)

The Free Lance is one of Sousa’s most beguiling musicals. It is also a farcical spoof. The ‘free lance’ of the operetta is not a musician, but an enterprising fellow who hires himself out as a mercenary (freelance) to two warring countries, assuming leadership of the armies on both sides and manoeuvring both forces so that neither side can win. The words to the opening music go:

‘I am a salaried warrior

And I do not care for fame,

For I’m a regular business man,

And cash is all I claim.’

The finale is a grand setting of the operetta’s finale ‘On to Victory’.

[4] The New York Hippodrome (1916)

The march The New York Hippodrome is highly evocative of New York’s incessant energy. The great Hippodrome Theater was the predecessor of today’s Radio City Music Hall, and was located a few blocks south of the current Radio City site on New York’s Sixth Avenue. It was a frequent venue for the Sousa Band’s New York performances and for many years was also the location of the Sousa Band’s offices.

[5] La Flor di Sevilla (1929)

Composed for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition in Seville, the march La Flor di Sevilla was ‘written and dedicated to the people of Spain’. The soaring trio tune is one of Sousa’s most flowering melodies.

[6] Waltzes from ‘El Capitan’ (1896)

El Capitan was one of the earliest successful Broadway musicals by an American composer. After its opening, it played almost continuously in the United States and Canada for four years. It is still performed today. This setting, in the form of a Strauss waltz, showcases many of the lovely waltz melodies found in the show.

[7] A Century of Progress (1931)

One of Sousa’s last marches, A Century of Progress was written in anticipation of the Sousa Band’s engagement in the summer of 1933 for Chicago’s Century of Progress World’s Fair. Sadly Sousa, who died on 6th March, 1932, did not live to fulfil the engagement and to give the first performance of the march.

[8]-[10] Suite: The Last Days of Pompeii (1893)

Sousa often referred to the suite The Last Days of Pompeii as his finest composition and programmed it more often than any of his other suites. He was particularly proud of the original descriptive effects. The inspiration for the suite was found in a popular novel The Last Days of Pompeii, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The only clue Sousa provides for the first movement In the House of Burbo and Stratonice is this quotation: ‘Within the room were placed several small tables: Around there were seated several knots of men drinking, some playing at dice’. In reality, it is a depiction of the great masculine power and invincibility of the Roman Empire, and alternates this pulsing power with a carefree tarantella. The second movement, Nydia, is entirely feminine in character and is based on the following quotation:

‘Ye have a world of light

When love in the loved rejoices,

And the blind girl’s home is the House of Night,

And its beings are empty voices.’

The final movement, The Destruction of Pompeii and Nydia’s Death, is a dramatic depiction of the eruption of Vesuvius and the chaos and death that rained down on Pompeii.

[11] The White Rose (1917)

The White Rose is unusual among Sousa marches since its main themes are all by another composer, one C.C. Frick of York PA, and were taken from Frick’s opera Nittaunis. Sousa orchestrated these melodies, adding his own introduction and ‘battle scene’. Regardless of its source, it is one of Sousa’s jolliest compositions. The march brims with life and good spirits.

[12] With Pleasure-Dance Hilarious (1912)

The delightful ragtime With Pleasure - Dance Hilarious was dedicated to the members of the Huntingdon Valley Country Club of Philadelphia. Sousa was an active member of this club, which was located near Willow Grove Park where the Sousa Band spent their summers.

[13] The Belle of Chicago (1892)

Sousa dedicated his early march The Belle of Chicago to the ‘ladies of Chicago’, but was later soundly criticized in the press for the march’s heaviness. One paper wrote: ‘Mr Sousa has made his Chicago belle a strapping kitchen wench’, another: ‘a voice like a foghorn, and feet like sugar cured hams’. Regardless, it remains one of his very finest marches.

[14] The National Game (1925)

Composed at the request of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, major league baseball’s first high commissioner, Sousa’s unique The National Game featured four baseball bat solos.

Program notes by Keith Brion are freely based on material taken from The Works of John Philip Sousa, Integrity Press with the permission of the author, Paul E. Bierley. The introduction is extracted from Roger Ruggeri’s program notes for the Milwaukee Symphony.

Special thanks for their assistance in preparing this recording to: Loras Schissel, Sousa Collection, Library of Congress, John Sousa IV, Pres., John Philip Sousa Inc., Paul E. Bierley, Sousa’s biographer, The United States Marine Band, and The Sousa Collection at the University of Illinois.


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