About this Recording
8.559729 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 13 (Central Band of the Royal Air Force, Brion)

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 13


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 US 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 US 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] Occidental March (1887)
Sousa’s Occidental March is notable throughout for the elegance of its opening strain, the rhythmic power of its second section, the delicious mixture of smooth melody and the bracing “Scottish snap” rhythm in the trio. It was composed during his days as leader of the United States Marine Band but little is known today about the origin of the title.

[2] Mother Goose March (1883)
While his own children were young Sousa elegantly created an happy patchwork march based on familiar nursery tunes. They include: Come All Ye Young Maids, I’se come to see Miss Jennie Jones, Little Jack Horner, There Is a Man in Our Town, Our Dear Doctor, and Down in the Meadow.

[3] Katherine – Operetta: Overture (1879)
Katherine was Sousa’s first operetta. It is not known if it was ever finished or produced. However the Sousa Band often performed his transcription of the sparkling and virtuosic overture including on tours in 1894–95 and 1927.

[4] Chris and the Wonderful Lamp – Operetta: Mama and Papa (1899)
This delightful ditty is a happy-go-lucky instrumental setting of a clever “patter song” from Sousa’s operetta based on the Aladdin legend. In the show this playful tune was colorfully choreographed for six dancing dolls.

[5] President Garfield’s Inaugural March (1881)
On March 4, 1881, Sousa and the Marine Band played for Garfield’s inauguration festivities. For that occasion Sousa composed a long and grand inaugural march, highlighting the grand ceremony with fanfares, processionals and lyrical counter themes.

[6] President Garfield’s Funeral March ‘In Memoriam’ (1881)
On July 2, 1881, four months after his inauguration, President James Garfield was shot by an assassin as he boarded a train in Washington en route to deliver a speech at his alma mater, Williams College. Garfield lay ill for the next 200 days finally passing away on September 19, 1881. His presidency had been notable for his desire to find equality of education and voting for African-American citizens.

Sousa was very moved by Garfield’s untimely passing and composed a dirge ‘In Memoriam’ which the Marine Band performed at Garfield’s burial. In March 1932, this same march was played by the Marine Band at Sousa’s own funeral as he was laid to rest in Washington’s Congressional Cemetery.

[7] Resumption March (1879)
“Resumption” refers to the decision to resume using gold and silver coins after the Civil War. This was a very happy occasion at least to judge from Sousa’s jaunty march music.

[8] Gallagher and Shean – Humoresque (1923)
Gallagher and Shean were a popular comedy team in the 1920’s. The pair even had their own short theme song, a hit from the 1922 Ziegfeld Follies. Sousa arranged the then famous theme adding other tunes evoking their various comedy routines, among them: Yes, We Have No Bananas, Good-Night Ladies, Three O’Clock in the Morning, Carolina in the Morning, We Won’t Be Home until Morning, Home Sweet Home, and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. The arrangement closes with an instrumental setting of the comedian’s well known brief tag line “tune” to which they sang: “Positively, Mr Gallagher; absolutely, Mr Shean.”

[9] Paroles d’Amour – Waltzes (1880)
Loosely translated as “The words (lyrics) of love”, these tuneful waltzes were great favorites of Sousa. They are formulated in the popular waltz styles of Johann Strauss Jr and Emile Waldteufel. Dating from Sousa’s first year as leader of the Marine Band they are dedicated to the commandant of the Marine Corps. While never published they later became a constant staple of Sousa’s Band’s touring programs during the 1925–27 seasons.

[10]–[12] Camera Studies – Suite (1920)
It is not known if the various sections of the suite were inspired by photography or simply arose out of Sousa’s prodigious musical imagination where they appeared to him as inspirational “snapshots”. He assembled his Camera Studies Suite during the summer of 1920. In June he composed the brilliant Spanish dance The Flashing Eyes of Andalusia, (which might have been initially conceived as a stand-alone movement.) But then a few days later he added an intermezzo movement, the gentle Drifting to Loveland and finally in August he finished the final movement, the happy, optimistic Children’s Ball completing the suite.

[13] While Navy Ships are Coaling (1923)
Navy Ships was first conceived by Sousa as a sea shanty for male voice and piano. Based on a poem by Wells Hawks, Sousa included his own “copious interpolations” of popular tunes, among them My Pretty Jane, Listen to the Mocking Bird, and Ol’ Carolina. The various songs are interspersed with Sousa’s own repeating (rondo-like) march theme. Later that year he re-scored the piece for performance by band alone, concluding with the finale of his own recently composed march, Keeping Step with the Union.

[14] White Plume March (1884)
This march also first appeared as a Sousa song for a political campaign in support of the presidential candidacy of James Gillespie Blaine who was then known as “The Plumed Knight”. As it turned out in the election of 1884 Blaine was the losing presidential candidate against Grover Cleveland. Originally the song was called We’ll Follow Where the White Plume Waves. While the political tune barely survived the election, Sousa’s expansion of the material into his White Plume March continued to be popular for many years.

Keith Brion

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