About this Recording
8.559746 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 16 (Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Brion)

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 16


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. Born 6th November, 1854, he 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, The 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] The Irish Dragoon – Circus Galop (1915)

This short, spirited work is extracted from John Philip Sousa’s last but incomplete operetta, The Irish Dragoon. Composed in 1915, Sousa had finished scoring the opera through the second act but owing to the death of his librettist, Joseph Herbert, it remained unfinished. Throughout the 1920s Sousa attempted to locate a qualified writer to finish his opera, but to no avail. In the 1980s, Loras John Schissel reconstructed the galop from Sousa’s unsorted sketches and performance materials, and later prepared the present transcription for the U.S. Marine Band. (Program note by Loras John Schissel)

[2] I’ve Made My Plans for the Summer – Waltz (1907)*

While the lyrics and music live “happily ever after” in Sousa’s delightful and topical song, he also arranged the song as an solo for cornet and band. The waltz was originally composed at the request of the management of “Luna Park,” a summer amusement park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, N.Y. where Sousa’s Band played a number of extended summer engagements. Sousa’s song lyrics told a typical boy/girl story of an encounter while strolling through the park on “happy days… down at Luna Park.”

[3] The Charlatan – Operetta: Selections (1898)

Sousa’s two most successful operettas are The Charlatan and El Capitan. Some think The Charlatan, while slightly less famous, is perhaps the most musically successful of the two. Sousa’s operettas show the strong influence of Gilbert and Sullivan. For a decade the Sousa operettas completed vigorously with musical shows from abroad. While Sousa’s music has all of Sullivan’s gaiety, for the most part the similarities end there. As with many operettas of the time, reviewers often remarked that the librettos were not equal to the music. Sousa’s operettas were generally distinctive for their abundance of martial rhythms: however in The Charlatan, Sousa expanded his more lyrical thoughts, creating one of his most musically satisfying stage works. This may have been a factor in making these band “selections” one of his most extended and inclusive operetta potpourris.

[4] Pushing On – March Song (1918)

Created during World War I while Sousa led the Navy Band at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Pushing On is part of his prolific wartime output of patriotic songs and marches. Sousa’s three “march songs” from this period all began as single key vocal settings and then were subsequently arranged for band. The other two are We Are Coming and When the Boys Come Sailing Home.

[5] Tyrolienne (c. 1880–1882)

This showpiece “air varié” solo setting of a French folk melody prepared for Sousa’s early Marine Band featured florid variations for the first cornet, then the first clarinet and finally as a duet for two solo cornets. This same melody was used by Jean B. Arban as a brilliant cornet solo.

[6] The Irish Dragoon – Overture (1915)

The brilliant and dashing overture to Sousa’s operetta The Irish Dragoon begins with and ends a tour de force Irish jig bracketing a gorgeous middle section featuring the show’s delightful ballad Springtime of Love. Although the operetta was never completed or performed, Sousa has surely left behind his finest overture.

[7] The Star-Spangled Banner, arranged Sousa and Damrosch (1918)

In 1917, two distinguished but independent committees were formed to “standardize” the Star Spangled Banner. First, at the request of the Army and Navy, a commission of twelve was formed to create a standard “military version.” Today, this Bb “service setting” has been further amended and is now known as the official “Department of Defense” version. Then, at the request of the US Dept. of Education, a second group was assembled to produce a standardized “Education version.” This distinguished committee of musicians and scholars included Walter Damrosch, perhaps America’s most famous orchestral conductor of that time and John Philip Sousa. The entire committee voted on all aspects of the text, melody and rhythm. By consent of the committee Walter Damrosch prepared the harmony and John Philip Sousa created the orchestration. Today this version is known today as the “Sousa/Damrosch” arrangement. The new edition was premièred in 1919 at Carnegie Hall with Walter Damrosch conducting his Symphony Society of New York and the Oratorio Society of New York. It was published in keys of Ab or Bb.

[8] Homeward Bound – March (c. 1885)

One of a number of hitherto lost or misplaced Sousa marches, Homeward Bound was reconstructed and brought back to life in 2014 by Loras Schissel who manages the Sousa archives at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress collection contained all but the work’s last page. Schissel was able to alternately connect the score’s lone missing page to an isolated page found at the Sousa Collection at the University of Illinois. From these reconnected materials he has created this new edition for modern bands. It is not known if the march’s musical themes were all those of Sousa, or if perhaps the score combines other tunes of the day into a typical “medley march.”

[9] On the Tramp – March (1879)

A march composed early in Sousa’s career, On The Tramp is based on the song Out of Work by Septimus Winner. At the time, the phrase “on the tramp” was a slang expression meaning “looking for work.”

[10] Wedding March (1918)

During World War I, a time when anti-German feelings were high, representatives of the American Relief Legion asked Sousa to compose a wedding march to replace the music of Wagner and Mendelssohn for American weddings. Sousa responded with an epic march with fanfares and grand themes and a highly romantic middle section.

[11] The Triumph of Time – March (1885)

The Triumph of Time is another of the many great parade marches composed by Sousa while conductor of the U.S. Marine Band. It was almost surely written for one of the Marine Band’s grand marching “reviews” at the Marine Barracks. In 1885, the official military marching speeds were more stately and slower than sometimes suggested by today’s “official tempo” of 120 beats per minute. The march is full of the power and the grand pomp of the occasion.

Keith Brion

Program notes for tracks 2 to 11 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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