About this Recording
8.559396 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 9 (Royal Norwegian Navy Band, Brion)

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 9


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 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 were the most important aspect of U.S. 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. His conducting genius attracted the finest musicians, enabling him to build an ensemble capable of executing programs 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 standardized the march form as it is known today, he was no mere maker of marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of over 200 works, including symphonic poems, suites, operas and operettas. His principles of instrumentation and tonal color influenced many classical composers. His robust, patriotic operettas of the 1890s helped introduce a truly native musical attitude in American theater.

[1] From Maine to Oregon (1913)

The stirring and strongly upbeat march From Maine to Oregonis based on a tune also used as the grand finale of Sousa’s operetta The American Maid (The Glass Blowers). Uniquely among Sousa’s marches the exuberant trio melody appears a second time in a different key.

[2] Overture to The Charlatan (1898)

The Charlatan trailed only his El Capitanin successful initial popularity. It is often said to be even better musically. The brilliant overture combines the most popular selections from the show.

[3] Flags of Freedom March (1918)

One of Sousa’s World War I efforts in support of the sale of World War I Liberty Bonds, the Flags of Freedom March skillfully combines the national airs of Belgium, Italy, France, Great Britain and America.

[4] Nymphalin (1880)

Sousa was an accomplished violinist and composed fluently and idiomatically for the instrument. Nymphalin includes a rare violin solo by Sousa. The various woman violinists who appeared regularly with Sousa’s Band often performed this charmingly tender and sentimental salon piece. A “boy/girl” duet for violin and euphonium is part of the setting.

[5]–[7] The Dwellers of the Western World - Suite (1910)

The three-movement suite The Dwellers of the Western World depicts the three major races who occupied the Western World. First American Indians, then white settlers from Western Europe and finally the great energy of the African population who followed. Each is represented by music that would have been thought to be characteristic in 1910. The White Man music depicts the settling and building of America. It is crowned with a grand symphonic setting of Sousa’s religious anthem “Oh thou American, Messiah of Nations”. The suite was composed in anticipation of Sousa’s celebrated yearlong 1911 world tour, and was well received in each country where the band visited.

[8] The Man behind the Gun (1899)

The Man behind the Gun is another of Sousa’s marches extracted from his operettas and is composed of themes drawn from his musical show Chris and the Wonderful Lamp. Typical of Sousa’s other operetta inspired marches, The Man Behind the Gun has a sudden midstream shift in rhythm from triple to duple to duple time, and in common with his U.S. Field Artillery and Bullets and Bayonets Marches, introduces a few timely gun shots.

[9] The Lily Bells (1880/1895)

Sousa drew this delightfully gentle band arrangement of The Lily Bells from his music for the society comedy Our Flirtations. It originally appeared in the show as a love song with words by an early Sousa sweetheart, Emma Bartlett. The music is full of quiet charm.

[10] The Chantyman’s March (1918)

After enlisting in the US Navy in 1917, Sousa was stationed as band conductor at Great Lakes Naval Training Center during the First World War and immediately began studying the rich legacy of sea shanties. The following spring he fashioned the medley The Chantyman’s March from them. In his march setting, the tunes appear in this order: Blow the Man Down, Away for Rio, Haul the Bowline, The Ballad of Billy Taylor, Hoodah Day, and A-Roving.

[11] When My Dreams Come True - Fantasy (1929)

As bookings and ticket sales began to decline after the stock market crash and competition from recordings and sound movies, to continue projecting a very current and up-to-date image for his band, Sousa fashioned medleys based on popular tunes of the day. When My Dreams Come True is one of Sousa’s most rarely performed fantasies. It features several variations on the title song as well as settings of “I’ll Always Be in Love with You” and “He’s Going to Marry Yum Yum” from The Mikado.

[12] U.S. Field Artillery March (1917)

Now the official march of the United States Army, the U.S. Field Artillery March is the most famous of Sousa’s many World War I compositions. The wellknown finale, called the “Caisson Song” was actually composed in 1908 by Artillery Lieutenant Edmund L. Gruber while encamped at an Army base in the Philippines. The Sousa Band’s Victor recording of this march became one of the best selling discs of the period.

[13] Harmonica Wizard March (1930)

Once asked to guest conduct the Philadelphia Harmonica Band, Sousa was so impressed that he composed the beguiling Harmonica Wizard March dedicated to them. While Sousa’s scoring does not include a harmonica part, the trio melody does allude to the push-pull tone production of the instrument. Subsequently the Hohner Harmonica Company began selling a John Philip Sousa model harmonica.

[14] University of Illinois March (1929)

One of Sousa’s finest marches, the University of Illinois March remains known outside the university in Champagne-Urbana, Illinois. The march was especially dedicated to the University of Illinois Band and its conductor Austin Harding, who was perhaps Sousa’s closest professional friend. After Sousa’s death his enormous library of over 10,000 selections was donated to the University of Illinois Band and remains archived there today for study by scholars of American band history.

Keith Brion


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

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