About this Recording
8.572651-52 - SOUSA, J.P.: Greatest Marches (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)

Sousa’s Greatest Marches

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, 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.

CD 1

[1] Hands Across the Sea (1899)
In 1899 Sousa planned to take his band to the 1900 Paris Exposition. Sousa wrote about the march: “After the Spanish / American War there was feeling overseas against our republic regarding this war. Some of the nations… thought we were not justified, while others gave us credit for the honesty of our purpose. One night…I came across this line, ‘A sudden thought strikes me, let us swear an eternal friendship.’ That suggested the title Hands Across the Sea”.
(Track [1] from 8.559058)

[2] Semper Fidelis (1888)
Sousa said: “I wrote Semper Fidelis one night while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico”. The march takes its title from the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: ‘Semper Fidelis’ – ‘Always Faithful’. It subsequently became the official march of the marines. Sousa regarded it as his best march in a musical sense. It has also become one of his most popular.
(Track [2] from 8.559092)

[3] The Royal Welch Fusiliers (1929)
The march The Royal Welch Fusiliers was composed in memory of the association of the U.S. Marines with the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China. The première was given in Washington at the annual Gridiron dinner in the presence of President Hoover. It was repeated two weeks later at the White House. Later that month Sousa conducted it in England with the band of the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
(Track [1] from 8.559059)

[4] Sabre and Spurs (1918)
The World War I era saw a prolific outpouring of great Sousa marches to inspire the military. Among them, Sabre and Spurs, dedicated to the 311th Cavalry is one of the finest. The trio depicts the hoof beats and movements of the mounted horsemen.
(Track [15] from 8.559131)

[5] King Cotton (1895)
King Cotton was created for the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta and marked the important first major appearance of the Sousa Band in the American South. Without a doubt it has become one of Sousa’s greatest marches. It may be that he wanted it to follow in the path of the great dance music success of The Washington Post (1888), since he fashioned a beautiful King Cotton trio melody that is essentially The Washington Post trio played upside down.
(Track [12] from 8.559059)

[6] Pathfinder of Panama (1915)
Pathfinder of Panama was composed for the Sousa Band’s long residency at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition in the summer of 1915. The Sousa Band appeared alongside an all-star symphony orchestra conducted by Camille Saint-Saëns.
(Track [9] from 8.559093)

[7] The Liberty Bell (1893)
Sousa and George Frederick Hinton, one of the band’s managers, were in Chicago witnessing a spectacle called “America” when a backdrop, with a huge painting of the Liberty Bell was lowered. Hinton suggested that The Liberty Bell would be a good title for Sousa’s new march. By coincidence, the next morning Sousa received a letter from his wife in which she told how their son had marched in his first parade in Philadelphia—a parade honoring the return of the Liberty Bell, which had been on tour. The new march was then christened The Liberty Bell. It was one of the first marches Sousa sold to the John Church Company and was the first composition to bring Sousa a substantial financial reward.
(Track [9] from 8.559132)

[8] Hail to the Spirit of Liberty (1900)
Composed for the Sousa Band’s appearance at the 1900 Paris Exposition, it was first played there on the 4th July for the unveiling of the Lafayette Monument. Following that, the band did a rare parade through the streets of Paris.
(Track [7] from 8.559058)

[9] The Black Horse Troop March (1924)
Sousa’s love of horses and for the military combine in The Black Horse Troop March of 1924, one of his greatest and most elegant marches. The march is dedicated to Troop A (Cavalry) of the Cleveland National Guard.
(Track [12] from 8.559247)

[10] The High School Cadets (1890)
Sousa’s march The High School Cadets was dedicated to a high school drill team in what was at the time Washington D.C.’s only high school, later to become Central High School. Since Sousa had already written a march (The National Fencibles) for another drill team, the students asked Sousa to write them “something superior”. In Sousa’s estimation he did write a better march.
(Track [1] from 8.559248)

[11] Daughters of Texas (1929)
Sousa hurriedly gave his first try for a march for the students at Texas Women’s University to Foshay for the dedication of his tower. He then returned to his muse to create one of his most graceful and delightful marches, Daughters of Texas.
(Track [12] from 8.559058)

[12] The Fairest of the Fair (1908)
The Fairest of the Fair was composed for the Boston Food Fair. It is said that Sousa had been quite impressed by the beauty and charm of a young lady he had seen at the fair on a preceding year. Whatever the motivation, it is one of his greatest and most elegant marches.
(Track [3] from 8.559059)

[13] Riders for the Flag (1927)
A sturdy, jaunty calvary march, Riders for the Flag was composed for the Fourth U.S. Cavalry and bears unmistakable signs of its equine and military inspirations.
(Track [6] from 8.559093)

[14] The Thunderer (1889)
The Thunderer was a nickname for a person whose actual identity may never be known. This gentleman was most likely a Washington, D.C. Masonic friend of Sousa. The march itself has become one of Sousa’s most popular and enduring compositions.
(Track [2] from 8.559131)

[15] The Washington Post (1889)
The Washington Post is the march that made Sousa famous, the march that made the newspaper famous and the march that made the two-step famous. Composed in 1889 for the U.S. Marine Band to perform at a children’s essay contest on the grounds of the Smithsonian, the march is thought to have been concocted in order to be the perfect music for a new dance called the “two-step”. The trio melody contains a little melodic half step dip and return that mirrors the sideways tilt used by the partners in the new dance. The jaunty 6/8 march-time has echoes of the older waltz rhythm that was receding in popularity but it adds the peppiness and faster pace of the polka. At any rate the tune caught fire with dancers. By the early 1890s dancing the two-step to the music of Sousa’s The Washington Post March became the popular ingredients that sparked a huge world-wide dance craze.
(Track [14] from 8.559248)

[16] The Glory of the Yankee Navy (1909)
One of Sousa’s finest marches, The Glory of the Yankee Navy is based on material first taken from a musical comedy The Yankee Girl, and later evolved into the martial version heard today.
(Track [10] from 8.559093)

[17] The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896)
With the possible exception of The Star Spangled Banner, no musical composition has done more to arouse the patriotic spirit of America than The Stars and Stripes Forever, John Philip Sousa’s most beloved composition. It is the official national march of the United States. Symbolic of flag-waving in general, it has been used with considerable effectiveness to generate patriotic feeling ever since its introduction in Philadelphia on 14th May, 1897, when the staid Public Ledger reported: “…It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis”. The Stars and Stripes Forever had found its place in history. There was a vigorous response wherever it was performed, and audiences began to rise as though it were the national anthem. This became traditional at Sousa Band concerts. It was his practice to have the cornets, trumpets, trombones, and piccolos line up at the front of the stage for the final trio, and this added to the excitement. Many bands still perform it.
(Track [13] from 8.559093)

CD 2

[1] Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1922)
Sousa composed the incredibly colourful march Nobles of the Mystic Shrine to commemorate his admission to the Shrine in Washington D.C. He conducted the première with an enormous band of 6200 Shriners in Washington’s Griffith’s baseball stadium.
(Track [1] from 8.559093)

[2] Wisconsin
Forward Forever (1917)
There can be no doubt that World War I inspired some of Sousa’s best marches, two of which are represented here. Wisconsin Forward Forever was dedicated to the University of Wisconsin, but was originally entitled Wisconsin to the Front.
(Track [10] from 8.559059)

[3] The Invincible Eagle (1901)
Sousa thought this march would become his greatest hit. If it did not, it is surely one of his finest. Sousa commented: “The new march, The Invincible Eagle, is what I call one of my sunshine marches. Some of my heavy marches are intended to convey the impression of the stir and strife of warfare, but The Invincible Eagle shows the military spirit at its lightest and brightest— the parade spirit. In fact, with the bravery of uniform, the sheen of silken stands, and the gleam of polished steel and all its other picturesque features.”
(Track [6] from 8.559058)

[4] Solid Men to the Front (1918)
Solid Men to the Front is one of Sousa’s finest and strongest marches. It is also one of the very few marches recorded by the Sousa Band with the March King himself conducting.
(Track [11] from 8.559059)

[5] The Diplomat (1904)
One of Sousa’s personal favourites, The Diplomat was dedicated to Secretary of State John Milton Hay. Sousa’s composition portrays his admiration for Hay’s elegant and ebullient diplomatic skills.
(Track [12] from 8.559131)

[6] The Picador March (1889)
Sousa had a great love for Spanish music. His Picador March portrays the grandeur and drama of the bullfight.
(Track [15] from 8.559132)

[7] Jack Tar (1903)
Sousa hoped that the march Jack Tar would become as important to navy men as his Stars and Stripes Forever had become to army men. The march had its première in London’s Royal Albert Hall with the King and Queen present and was performed at that time by the joint forces of the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Himenoa Band of NZ, Sousa’s Band and the Queen’s Hall Orchestra. It is also another of Sousa’s marches based on themes from one his operettas… in this case the first two strains came from his show Chris and the Wonderful Lamp.
(Track [8] from 8.559248)

[8] America First (March of the States) (1916)
America First was composed for a 1916 Broadway show Hip! Hip! Hooray! The title was inspired by a 1915 Woodrow Wilson speech: “Our whole duty for the present is summed up in the motto “America First”. The march and its subtitle are taken from an extensive ballet score for the Hip! Hip! Hooray! show called The Sisterhood of the States. Included in the march are four state themes: Dixie, Maryland, My Maryland, We’re Off to Philadelphia in the Morning, and Yankee Doodle.
(Track [1] from 8.559247)

[9] Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co. (1924)
The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co. of Boston is the oldest military organization in the United States. Sousa composed his march at their request and included their marching song Auld Lang Syne. It was formally presented to them at a concert in Symphony Hall Boston in September 1924.
(Track [7] from 8.559093)

[10] The Minnesota March (1927)
Minnesota was composed at the request of the University of Minnesota football coach and the alumni. The march is still performed today, and is a popular addition to university sporting events.
(Track [1] from 8.559131)

[11] The Atlantic City Pageant March (1927)
During Sousa’s final years, beginning in 1926, the band often played summer engagements at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. The Atlantic City Pageant March was written at the request of the city’s mayor, and honoured the famous Atlantic City Beauty Pageant.
(Track [16] from 8.559131)

[12] Sesqui-Centennial Exposition (1926)
Composed for an exposition in Philadelphia celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Sesqui-Centennial Exposition march is also particularly appropriate for the celebration of Sousa’s own sesqui-centennial of his birth in 1854. It features a chime solo evocative of the Liberty Bell.
(Track [2] from 8.559093)

[13] La Flor di Sevilla (1929)
Composed for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition in Seville, the march La Flor di Sevilla was ‘written and dedicated to the people of Spain’. The soaring trio tune is one of Sousa’s most flowering melodies.
(Track [5] from 8.559092)

[14] The Corcoran Cadets (1890)
The march The Corcoran Cadets was composed for a crack Washington D.C. teenage drill team. Their organization performed with colorful uniforms and bearing wooden rifles. The march was most likely written for the band that accompanied their drill routines.
(Track [1] from 8.559092)

[15] The National Game (1925)
Composed at the request of Judge Kenesaw Mountain, major league baseball’s first high commissioner, Sousa’s unique The National Game featured four baseball bat solos.
(Track [14] from 8.559092)

[16] Bullets and Bayonets (1918)
Bullets and Bayonets, another First World War rouser, was dedicated ‘To the officers and men of the U.S. Infantry’.
(Track [13] from 8.559059)

[17] The Naval Reserve March (1917)
The 1917 Naval Reserve March was composed for the 300-piece naval band Sousa led at Great Lakes Navy Training Center during World War I. It was dedicated “To the Officers and Men of the U.S. Naval Reserve”. The trio incorporates a popular Sousa song of the time: Blue Ridge I’m Coming Back to You.
(Track [13] from 8.559247)

Keith Brion

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