John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 12
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.
 Sound Off March (1885)
Dedicated to Major George Porter Houston, Sousa’s commander at the time, Sound Off is another of his brilliant parade marches from his service as conductor of the US Marine Band.
 Peaches and Cream – Foxtrot (1924)
Ever striving to be “up to date”, Sousa was apparently inspired to compose this charming 1920s fox-trot Peaches and Cream after watching his granddaughter at a dance.
 Transit of Venus March (1883)
The Transit of Venus is the moment when Venus passes between the earth and the sun, becoming visible while casting a small shadow on the sun. These transits were seen twice, in 1874 and 1882, most likely inspiring Sousa with the title of this march as well as suggesting the name of one of his three novels. The march was dedicated to Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution who was responsible for the 1874 scientific observation of the Venus passage.
 Marching Through Georgia – Patrol (1891)
Sousa’s Marching Through Georgia is a powerfully inventive patrol setting of Henry Clay Work’s immensely popular 1865 civil war song, written to commemorate William Tecumseh Sherman’s famed and decisive Union Army “March to the Sea” which eventually captured the city of Savannah, Georgia.
Maidens Three – Suite
 I. The Coquette (1887)
The Coquette is a short caprice often described in Sousa’s programs with a quotation from a German poem (as translated by Longfellow):
I know a maiden fair to see,
Take care! Take care!
She can both false and friendly be,
 II. The Summer Girl (1901)
The charming little dance piece The Summer Girl is in fact a re-titled version of Sousa’s Electric Ballet music from his operetta Chris and the Wonderful Lamp.
 III. The Dancing Girl (1897)
The Dancing Girl is a brilliant tarantella extracted from Sousa’s operetta The Bride Elect.
 Mikado March (1885)
Sousa was tremendously enamored of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works and frequently programmed the music from their current operettas. The Mikado March was composed the same year as the show opened in London. It is one of Sousa’s “medley marches” and includes many of the hit tunes from this operetta.
 The Honored Dead – Funeral March (1876)
The origins of the march The Honored Dead appear to date from a piano version published in 1876 but later in 1885 when President Ulysses S. Grant died, Sousa arranged it for band. Sousa and the Marine Band performed the march for Grant’s funeral.
 Marquette University March (1924)
In 1923 Sousa was given an honorary doctorate degree by Marquette University, the first such award ever granted by that Milwaukee institution. The following year in gratitude for the recognition bestowed on him Sousa composed a march dedicated to the university.
 Revival March (1876)
This very early Sousa march, Revival March, was subtitled The Great Revival March and Salvation Army Rally. It incorporates the popular hymn tune In the Sweet Bye and Bye.
 Chris and the Wonderful Lamp – Overture (1899)
Loosely based on the Aladdin legend, Sousa’s operetta Chris and the Wonderful Lamp followed closely on the heels of two of his more successful shows, El Capitan and The Charlatan. It closed however, after a short run, leading the ever-resourceful Sousa quickly to adapt many of the numbers for other purposes including much of the material for his Jack Tar March, his suites Looking Upward and Dwellers of the Western World, the charming ditty Mama and Papa and the Electric Ballet.
 Right Forward March (1881)
Right Forward is another stirring parade march from Sousa’s earliest days as director of the Marine Band. Many of Sousa’s marches from this period were named to reflect the simple military commands used during marching drills.
Leaves From My Notebook – Suite (1923)
Sousa’s Leaves From My Notebook Suite consists of three very feminine musical sketches. It was dedicated to the Campfire Girls of America who were often present at concerts to shower Sousa with gifts and honors as he toured the country with his band.
 I. The Genial Hostess
The Genial Hostess is very conversational. The music flits about.
 II. The Campfire Girls
The gently purposeful and clearly organized opening of The Campfire Girls gives way to a lovely waltz/ballad, concluding with a segue to:
 III. The Lively Flapper
The Lively Flapper vividly portrays all of the flash, speed and non-stop energy of the famed “flappers” of the roaring twenties.
 Right-Left March (1883)
The delightful parade Right-Left March from Sousa’s time with the US Marine Band features unison chanting from the marchers (i.e. the band).
Program notes by Keith Brion are freely based on material taken from “The Works of John Philip Sousa,” Integrity Press with the express 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 Library of The United States Marine Band; Brian Holt, New Sousa Band, percussion consultation; and The Sousa Collection at the University of Illinois.