About this Recording
8.559839 - SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 19 (Royal College of Music Wind Orchestra, Brion)
English 

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Music for Wind Band • 19

 

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 6 November 1854, he reached this exalted position with startling quickness. In 1880, at the age of 26, he became conductor of the United States 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 3,500 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, 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 color influenced many classical composers. His robust, patriotic operettas of the 1890s helped introduce a truly native musical attitude in American theater.

 1  Second Fantasia from El Capitan

Some time after his popular musical El Capitan was performed in 1896, Sousa apparently began preferring a band arrangement by Vincent Ragone to his own and started performing it for his concerts. Due to the great length of the Ragone’s setting, David Stern has divided the work into first and second Fantasias from El Capitan settings. Each fantasia concludes with a stirring excerpt from Sousa’s El Capitan March.

The First Fantasia from Sousa’s El Capitan has also been recorded, and will appear on Volume 20 of the Naxos series, in a performance by the Wind Orchestra of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

 2  Non-Committal Declarations

Non-Committal Declarations is a rare Sousa setting for women’s voices. It was composed to be performed by either a trio or a women’s chorus. The trio for this recording includes Izzy Atkinson, Laura Hocking and Rosanna Cooper, all students at the Royal College of Music during the 2017 Naxos sessions. Sousa’s Band also performed this work with three solo cornets.

 3  On the 5.15 – Humoresque

A 1915 popular song about a commuter missing his train became the subject of one of Sousa’s humoresques. Included in this recording are the voices of Keith Brion and Linda Ekstrom Stanley. David Stern created the modern edition.

 4  Selection from The Bride Elect

First produced in New Haven, CT in December 1897, the musical comedy enjoyed mild success. It was revived in January 1923 (again in New Haven) with the addition of a ballet, People Who Live In Glass Houses. It continues to be primarily remembered today for the Bride Elect March which closes the show.

 5  The Fighting Race

The trombone solo version of the music evolved from Sousa’s 1919 song Kelly, Burke and O’Shea. It was based on a poem by J.I.C. Clarke about “three men with ‘good honest fighting blood’ who gave their lives for their country.” In the 1920s the song was re-titled The Fighting Race, and adapted (without words) as a solo for Sousa’s principal trombonist John Schueler. Schueler later became the principal trombone of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. For this recording the solo is performed by Jonathan Hollick in a modern edition created by David Stern.

 6  The Band Came Back – Humoresque

During the Sousa Band’s tours, Sousa was often invited to speak at local service club luncheons such as Rotary or Kiwanis. Often these appearances ran overtime causing a late start for the band’s matinee concerts. To solve this problem Sousa devised a solution that allowed various sections of band to begin without him by entering one by one, performing a variety of wellknown tunes and remaining to accompany the other sections of the band as they began to arrive, always performed without a conductor. As the years went by, The Band Came Back became considerably embellished by the various sections of the band. This recording uses a modern edition of Sousa’s initial score and was prepared by Kevin R. Tam. In 1919 Sousa further revised and re-titled the piece as Showing Off Before Company. That version will appear on Volume 21 of this series.

 7  Sheep and Goat (“Walkin’ to the Pasture”)

Sheep and Goat (“Walkin’ to the Pasture”) was scored for piano by David Guion in 1922, and later arranged for band in 1925 by John Philip Sousa. Guion subtitled the work Cowboys and Old Fiddlers’ Breakdown. Of the music Guion wrote: “The first time I remember having heard it, was while trottin’ on my mother’s knees some twenty years ago, and again, at the Cowboys’ and Old Fiddler’s dances and reunions in my old home in West Texas.”

 8  Turkey in the Straw

Turkey in the Straw was also subtitled Cowboys’ and Old Fiddlers’ Breakdown (1919), and was arranged for band in 1921 by John Philip Sousa. Guion’s concert arrangement of this folk tune became initially famous in performances by the pianist Percy Grainger.

Keith Brion

Booklet notes 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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