About this Recording
8.559745 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 15 (Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Brion)

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 15


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 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 colour influenced many classical composers. His robust, patriotic operettas of the 1890s helped introduce a truly native musical attitude in American theatre.

[1] Prince Charming – March (1928)

One of Sousa’s more playful, inventive and lighthearted marches, Prince Charming is composed in Sousa’s more sophisticated late style. It was written at the request of a large elementary school orchestra in Los Angeles. Sousa arranged it for band the following year.

[2] Across the Danube – March (1877)

The title of this work, composed when Sousa was 23, comes from a time when the Danube formed a wartime border between the Ottoman Empire and Russia and Turkey. In this very early march Sousa was already creating stylish light-hearted first strains for his marches. The second strain is in two parts: first, a more powerful, striding melody followed by a new lighter tune which concludes the strain. The final trio has a powerfully swinging melody, softly echoed and ornamented while growing to a strong ending.

[3] The Band Came Back (1895/1926)

For lack of a better description, this music was billed as a “fantastic episode.” To catch the audience by surprise it was always programmed by Sousa as the first piece after an intermission. The house lights were turned off, revealing an empty stage. Slowly and deliberately, the musicians entered, playing singly, in pairs or in trios. Each played some popular tune upon entering, sometimes with an accompaniment provided by musicians already onstage. Only after all of his players had entered and were seated did Sousa make his appearance, conducting only the last note. Although the piece was somewhat further revised in 1919 with a new title, Showing Off Before Company, it was always a continuous work in progress and could change from performance to performance, year after year. The version heard on this recording is based on a 1920s arrangement by Sousa’s cornet soloist, arranger and assistant conductor Herbert L. Clarke, and has been assembled and prepared for this recording by Dan Reger.

[4] Magna Charta – March (1927)

Another of Sousa’s inventive “late” marches, it was composed as a tribute to one of the most important documents in the history of English-speaking nations, the Magna C[h]arta. Sousa’s score honoured a request of the International Magna Charta Day Association, which was urging the annual observance of Magna Charta Day on June 15.

[5] Chris and the Wonderful Lamp – Operetta: Electric Ballet from Act 2 (1899)

Charm and lightness are qualities rarely associated with band music. However Sousa’s elegant dance setting from his operetta based on the Aladdin tale certainly has both.

[6] Legionnaires – March (1930)

On December 5, 1930, Sousa told a newspaper reporter he was anxiously awaiting the inspiration for this march. However later that day, inspiration must have come quickly, since he sat down and sketched it out from start to finish. The march was written at the request of the French government for the International Colonial and Overseas Exposition in Paris in 1931. The cover for the piano sheet music depicts Washington and Lafayette and the dates (1776–1931), inferring that these two pillars of democracy who fought together in the American Revolution, were Sousa’s “legionnaires.”

[7] Chopin, arr. Sousa: Nocturne No. 11 (1838)

Over his lifetime Sousa created innumerable band transcriptions of the music he admired by other composers. In his elegant setting of Chopin’s G minor Nocturne No. 11, Sousa employs a distant chorus of offstage brass instruments.

[8] Volunteers – March (1918)

During World War I, a government official asked Sousa to compose a march dedicated to the workers building ships for the war effort, asking also that the music include the sounds of the shipyard: riveting, sirens and anvils. Sousa responded elegantly and creatively, composing one of his most unusual marches.

[9] Désirée – Operetta: Selections (1884/1894)

Sousa’s operetta Désirée opened in Washington DC in 1884 while Sousa was serving as director of the U.S. Marine Band. The show lasted for approximately forty performances in Washington and Philadelphia. Later he created this arrangement of Selections for his own Sousa Band.

[10] Pet of the Petticoats – March (1883)

During his tenure as director of the U.S. Marine Band Sousa composed a prolific quantity of new parade music for his band, often experimenting with the march form itself. Pet of the Petticoats dispenses with a normal introduction, instead grafting the beginning of the march on to the first strain. Then Sousa jumps to an extended battle scene… the sort of scrappy interlude usually found in his trios but here written out as a warlike second strain. After a lovely cantabile melody is introduced at the trio, he employs only a very shortened interlude with the band echoing a series of drum beats. The trio tune returns before Sousa completes the form with a traditional da capo ending.

[11] Gilding Girl – Tango (1912)

Sousa’s score dates from 1912 when the tango was “all the rage” throughout Europe and the United States. Several Sousa bandsmen reported to biographer Paul E. Bierley that Sousa was inspired to compose the work after his daughter Pricilla danced the tango for him in their living room after returning from a holiday in Europe. The full score manuscript is interesting insofar as the subtitle of the work was originally A Dance. However the manuscript paper changes at the start of the trio so it is possible that Sousa began composing his tango as a slow foxtrot. However the remaining strains are certainly more in the traditional style of a tango.
Program note by Loras Schissel

[12] Ben Bolt – March (1883)

Sousa’s Ben Bolt March was constructed around popular tunes of the time, many of them recognizable to this day. They include The Daisy, Go Down Moses, Sally in Our Alley, O Fair Dove, O Fond Dove, and Ben Bolt.

[13] Yorktown Centennial – March (1881)

The Yorktown (Virginia) Centennial was held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the last important battle of the American Revolutionary War: the surrender at Yorktown. Sousa, then leader of the U.S. Marine Band, composed the march for this event and dedicated it to Colonel H.C. Corbin, master of ceremonies of the Centennial.

Keith Brion

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.

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