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ClassicsOnline Home » SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 6 (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)
John Philip Sousa, known affectionately as “The March King”, 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. This Naxos series of recordings aims to record Sousa’s complete works for wind band, including the 136 marches and numerous other scores. This sixth disc in the series includes The Golden Star, a funeral march dedicated to Mrs Theodore Roosevelt ‘in memory of the brave who gave their lives that liberty shall not perish’, The Federal, composed for Sousa’s 1911 world tour, and The Gladiator, which quickly achieved widespread popularity. The Liberty Bell has achieved popular status as the signature tune for the BBC comedy Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
By David Denton
We have reached the sixth volume in Sousa's music for wind
band, and certainly the most attractive in content and performance. Born in
Washington DC in 1854, his father - who was a trombonist with the United States
Marine Band - quickly realised that his son, John Philip, had inherited his
musical attributes. The speed of his development found him conducting a small
group of professional musicians at the age of eleven, the group developing into
a popular dance orchestra. From the age of 12 his studies were to be with famous
classically trained musicians as a violin and composition student. He played
in theatres, and at the age of 21 joined the orchestra at the 1876 Centennial
Exposition where he played under the guest conductor, Jacques Offenbach. It
was the new light music he played that was to provide the stimulus to compose
in the style of Johann Strauss and Sullivan, and included fifteen operettas
spanning the greater part of his life. At the age of 25 he received the unprecedented
appointment, for one so young, of Director of the United States Marine Band,
resigning 12 years later to form his own band which toured every part of the
United States and was a frequent visitor to Europe. He was to continue conducting
until he was 77, the year before he died in 1932. Without doubt America's most
famous musician of his day, and though his theatre music is now largely forgotten,
his marches are still the most frequently played throughout the world. The suite
for band, Three Quotations, is a most imaginative work, while The
Golden Star dedicated to the memory of Theodore Roosevelt's wife is a most
moving funeral marches. There are very well known items, The Liberty Bell,
The Gladiator, and The Gridiron Club being among his most frequently
played, though I particularly love the ragtime atmosphere of Easter Monday
on the White House Lawn. With each new disc the playing of the Royal Artillery
Band goes up one rung, and here excels itself under the watchful eye of Sousa
specialist, Keith Brion. Very good and realistic sound.
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 6
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 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 the 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. Sousa's 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.
The library of Sousa's Band contained over 10,000 titles. Among them are the numerous band compositions of Sousa including the marches and numerous other compositions. This new series, "Sousa: Works for Wind Band" seeks to record them for the world to hear.
[Track 1] Easter Monday on the White House Lawn (1928)
This sprightly ragtime piece was composed as a new final movement for Sousa's suite Tales of a Traveler, replacing the stately Coronation March with a lively piece more in keeping with a dynamic America in the roaring twenties.
 The Golden Star (1919)
Sousa's "memorial march", a funeral march, was dedicated to Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, "in memory of the brave who gave their lives that liberty shall not perish." Sousa once said of the work "It will not be a monetary success. One cannot write from his heart and write for rewards. I was thinking of those fine young boys who will never return."
 Dauntless Battalion (1922)
Sousa composed this bright march to honor the parading cadets of Pennsylvania Military Academy.
 Sextet from The Bride Elect (1897)
This sextet, the finale of Act II from The Bride Elect, is extracted from Sousa's operetta about June brides and is modeled on the operatic sextet from Donizetti's Lucia Di Lamermoor. Sousa later arranged the music for brass sextet and often performed it with his band.
 The Federal (1910)
Composed for Sousa's tour around the world in 1911, this brilliant march was dedicated to the people of Australia and New Zealand.
- Three Quotations (1895)
Set in the form of a patrol, the opening movement The King of France is a satirical grand march. Sousa's "quotation" says "The King of France with twenty thousand men, marched up the hill and then marched down again." The second movement I, Too, Was Born in Arcadia is an essay on the gentle murmurings of pastoral life. The final movement, In Darkest Africa, is alive with the syncopations and rhythms of the black man's experience.
 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.
 The Gridiron Club (1926)
This march was dedicated to the Washington DC journalist's organization called the Gridiron Club. Sousa was a longstanding member of the organization, attending their yearly meetings for over forty years.
 La Reine de la Mer Waltzes (1886)
These waltzes were a favorite of Sousa's and were often performed by his band. La Reine de la Mer… "the Queen of the Sea", was in fact the wife of the secretary of the Navy during the time Sousa led the Marine Band.
 The Chariot Race (1890)
Based on a fictional story by Lew Wallace which then became a popular play on Broadway in 1889, Sousa's wild and vivid depiction of a Roman chariot race predates many modern film scores.
 The Gladiator (1886)
When he heard this march performed by an organ grinder on the streets of Philadelphia, Sousa realized to his great delight that one of his compositions had finally achieved widespread popularity.
 New Mexico (1928)
Sousa's unusual New Mexico March was composed at the request of New Mexico's governor, R.C. Dillon. The march mirrors the ethnic origins of the state, blending Spanish, Indian and American materials. The state song Oh Fair New Mexico is adapted as the concluding trio.
 The Picador (1889)
Sousa had a great love for Spanish music. His Picador March portrays the grandeur and drama of the bullfight.
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. Notes are also adapted from R. Mark Rogers' score notes for his Southern Music publications. The introduction is extracted from Roger Ruggeri's program notes for the Milwaukee Symphony.
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