About this Recording
8.559397 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 10 (Royal Norwegian Navy Band, Brion)

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 10


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 and 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] The Salvation Army March (1930)

Composed at the request of Commander Evangeline Booth, daughter of William Booth, the Salvation Army’s founder, The Salvation Army March had its première in New York in 1930 at a grand pageant celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Salvation Army’s existence. Sousa conducted the massed bands. As founder William Booth’s O Boundless Salvation, the Salvationist’s favorite hymn, came sailing forth in the middle of the march, the audience burst into applause.

[2] Jazz America (1925)

Sousa’s continuing concert success required staying abreast of America’s musical tastes. His rare 1925 fantasy Jazz America combines many then popular, jazz-tinged tunes into an upbeat and lively concert medley. The music is not jazz in the modern sense but it is certainly richly emblematic of the Jazz Age. An exception to the many upbeat portions is a lyrical excerpt from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, then in vogue as the popular song You Are My Song of Love, My Melody Immortal.

[3] The Free Lance March (1906)

Drawn from his popular operetta The Free Lance, The Free Lance March is another of Sousa’s great medleymarches. Each section of the march is a different number from the show. Each had lyrics in the production, some of them tongue-twisting. The last trio tune is the rousing finale On to Victory!

[4] The Quilting Party (1889)

The Quilting Party or Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party features a song popular in the late 1880s. Sousa, ever up to date, included it as the trio of his march. The first section includes a musical quotation of When a Wooer Goes a-Wooing from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard.

[5]–[8] People Who Live in Glass Houses Suite (1909)

The People Who Live in Glass Houses Suite was first conceived as a humorous “characteristic” study for band. It was “inspired” by various forms of alcohol and the nationalities often associated with them. In 1923, during the height of America’s raging temperance discussions, Sousa, no teetotaler himself, inserted an additional movement White Rock and Psyches in the middle of the suite, rescoring the work as an orchestral ballet for the revival of his operetta The Bride Elect. In this revival production, dancers were outfitted in large bottles symbolizing the various drinks. The fourth movement, The Whiskies, is subtitled: “Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and Rye, or The Whiskies-Scotch, Irish and Kentucky”. The complete title for the final movement is Convention of the Cordials, Wines, Whiskies and White Rock (Convention of the Liqueurs, Wines and Whiskies). Sousa’s complete five movement orchestral version has been recorded by Keith Brion with the Razumovsky Symphony on Naxos Sousa, On Stage [8.559008].

[9] When the Boys Come Sailing Home (1918)

Originally composed as a song with lyrics by Sousa’s youngest daughter, When the Boys Come Sailing Home was later adapted as a quasi-march for band celebrating the end of World War I.

[10] Myrrha Gavotte (1876)

As a teenage violinist, Sousa performed weekly in a string quartet at the home of William Hunter, a prominent state department employee. Hunter, a man of considerable taste, imported the latest classical scores from Europe for performances by his resident quartet. He also urged Sousa to go to Europe to study music, something Sousa did not do. Myrrha Gavotte is as set in a formal classical dance style.

[11] Vatour Overture (1886)

Sousa composed his cheerful Rossini-like Vatour Overture as a prelude to Adolphe Eugene Philippe D’Ennery’s play, Vatour, the Vulture. He often performed it as a concert overture with his own Sousa Band.

[12] The Beau Ideal March (1893)

Beau Ideal was a phrase often used in the early 1890s to denote perfect beauty and was also sometimes associated with a certain kind of military elegance and perfection. The sheet music of The Beau Ideal March is dedicated to a then newly formed organization called the National League of Musicians of the United States.

[13] Look for the Silver Lining Humoresque (1922)

Sousa was proud of his humoresques. They are skillful additions to a great tradition of musical humor pieces culminating in more modern times with the creations of Spike Jones, the Hoffnung concerts and Peter Shickele’s PDQ Bach. After the initial exposition of Jerome Kern’s lovely 1919 hit tune, Sousa takes us to a ball game (In the Good Old Summertime), engages in hi-jinks about drinking and drunkenness (How Dry I Am), and cranks a Model T Ford that careens along a drunken ride as Keystone cops blow their whistles in pursuit. The tune is suddenly transformed into early big band jazz before finishing with an astonishing treatment of Look For the Silver Lining: each note of the tune is performed by a different instrument, as in Anton Webern’s “Klangfarben” technique.

[14] Anchor and Star (1918)

Anchor and Star is another superb parade/drill march dating from Sousa’s prolific WWI period when he served as commander of the Navy recruit bands at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. While there, Sousa organized a cadet marching band of some 300 welltrained recruits. The “anchor and star” are the official emblems of the United States Navy.

[15] Who’s Who in Navy Blue (1920)

Who’s Who in Navy Blue was composed at the request of the US Naval Academy’s graduating class of 1920. Sousa, who was then a retired Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, was subsequently made an honorary member of the Annapolis Academy’s graduating class in 1921 in honor of his contributions to the US Navy in WW I.

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. 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; John Bierley, cover photo assistance, The United States Marine Band; Brian Holt, New Sousa Band, percussion consultation; and The Sousa Collection at the University of Illinois.

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