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ClassicsOnline Home » SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 1 (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)
John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Music for Wind Band Vol. 1
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
on 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 where
the most important aspect of musical life in the United
States of America. 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 programmes almost as
varied as those of a symphony orchestra. The Sousa
Band became the standard by which American bands
were measured nationally, causing a dramatic
upgrading in quality.
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 standardised the march
form as it is known today, he was no mere maker of
marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of
over two hundred 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.
Sousa: Works for Wind Band, Volume I
The library of Sousa’s Band contained over ten
thousand titles. Among them are the numerous band
compositions of Sousa. This new series, ‘Sousa: Works
for Wind Band’ seeks to record them for the world to
 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”.
 Manhattan Beach (1893)
Sousa said: “I wrote Manhattan Beach while playing a summer engagement at that once popular
Resort”. In his interpretation of the march, the final
sections suggest rolling ocean waves as one strolls along
the beach. A band is heard in the distance growing
louder, then fading away.
Looking Upward Suite (1902)
Regarded as one of Sousa’s most serious
compositions, it is also likely the first major twentieth-century wind work by an American. There are three
 By the Light of the Polar Star
The inspiration for the suite, and particularly the
first movement appeared on a crisp South Dakota night
while Sousa looked at the heavens from his train.
 Beneath the Southern Cross
An advertisement for the steamship Southern Cross
sparked this movement.
 Mars and Venus
Inspired by the heavens, Mars is portrayed as a
wild west cowboy with Venus as his love interest. A
storm scene ensues, Mars returns and the two are
 The Invincible Eagle (1901)
Sousa thought this march would become his
greatest hit. If it did not, it is surely one of his finest.
“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.”
 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.
 Colonial Dames Waltz (1896)
Contrary to popular opinion, Sousa composed many
waltzes, relishing that form. Many of them were
orchestral compositions, used as ballads in his
operettas, but Colonial Dames, first published for piano
in a ladies magazine, became a popular feature on
Sousa’s band concerts.
 Imperial Edward (1902)
The Sousa Band played a command performance at
Sandringham in England in 1901. Afterwards, Sousa
requested permission to dedicate a march to His
Majesty the King. The manuscript is now at the British
Library. God Save the King, appears by surprise,
intoned by the trombones.
 Foshay Tower Washington Memorial (1929)
William B. Foshay a Minneapolis businessman,
who had constructed a new downtown skyscraper
designed to resemble the Washington Monument,
wanted a march for the dedication. Sousa’s Band played
it in daily concerts. Two months later, the stock market
crash entangled Foshay in legal difficulties that led to
his imprisonment. To protect Sousa’s reputation, his
family impounded the score, finally releasing his happy
march over fifty years later.
 Humoresque on George Gershwin’s ‘Swanee’ (1920)
To delight his public, Sousa fondly grafted popular
tunes into clever arrangements. He called these
humoresques. Swanee is based on the Gershwin / Caesar
tune from Sinbad made memorable in Al Johnson’s
recording. Sousa’s variations include sly commentaries
on the lyrics and liberally quotes from Hail, Hail the
Gang’s All Here, Listen to the Mocking Bird, Dixie, and
Old Folks at Home. After its fade-away ending, Sousa
often launched into one of Fillmore’s raucous trombone
 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, so he then returned to his muse
to create one of his most graceful and delightful
marches, Daughters of Texas.
 Kansas Wildcats (1928)
The brilliant march Kansas Wildcats was composed
on request for Kansas State University in Manhattan
KS. The trio captures the mood of the roaring twenties
with a catchy syncopation.
 Power and Glory (1923)
Annual summer engagements at Willow Grove
Park, near Philadelphia, led Sousa to write a special
march for Thomas Mitten, top executive of the
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, whose trolleys
transported throngs of visitors to and from the park.
First titled as March of the Mitten Men it included
Mitten’s favorite hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers.
Sousa later substituted the more generic title: Power and Glory.
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