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ClassicsOnline Home » SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 5 (Royal Artillery Band, Brion)
American Record Guide
By Victor Carr Jr
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
Works for Wind Band, Volume 5
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 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 American 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 programmes 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
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. 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. The present series seeks
to record them for the world to hear. This fifth volume of Sousa’s music for
wind band is being released in honour of the sesquicentennial of Sousa’s birth
 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.
 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, DC
Masonic friend of Sousa’s. The march itself has become one of Sousa’s most
popular and enduring compositions.
 The Charlatan Waltzes (1898)
The operetta The Charlatan was perhaps Sousa’s second most
popular after El Capitan. It opened in Montreal and enjoyed successful runs in
New York and in London, where it was known as The Mystical Miss. The plot is a
classic operetta story of misplaced royal identities. The title The Charlatan
refers to a magician who works his mysterious way through the complex plot.
Sousa often fashioned the hit love songs from his shows into waltz medleys in
the style of Strauss waltzes. These are no exception.
 The Pride of the Wolverines (1926)
Dedicated by Sousa to the City of Detroit, the march Pride
of the Wolverines was later declared the official march of that city. It is one
of Sousa’s most vigorous and inventive works in the march idiom.
 University of Nebraska (1928)
The University of Nebraska march was dedicated to the
faculty and students. It has a lightness, lilt and verve that make it very
special among Sousa’s numerous ‘college’ marches.
 The Gallant Seventh (1922)
The Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard for
years had one of the famous bands in the New York City area. Their conductor,
Francis Sutherland had been one of Sousa’s cornettists. The première of the
march was performed on the stage of New York’s great Hippodrome Theater
(predecessor of today’s Radio City Music Hall) with Sousa’s Band flanked by
Sutherland’s Seventh Regiment Band.
 Powhattan’s Daughter (1907)
Saluting the legendary Pocahontas, daughter of Chief
Powhattan, the march was written for the Jamestown Virginia Exposition of 1907.
The exposition marked the three-hundredth anniversary of the first English
settlement in America.
- Cubaland (1925)
During a 1924 vacation in Havana Sousa was inspired to
compose the colourful suite Cubaland. Each movement depicts the rule of Cuba
under different governments. In 1875 Spain, in 1898 the United States and
finally in 1925 Cuba. Each contains characteristic melodies of the ruling
nation. Under the Spanish Flag contains references to such melodies as The
Spanish Constitution and Andalusian Dances, the American Flag written in quasi
patrol form contains Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight and Swanee River and
finally the Cuban Flag includes the traditional Cuban song La Bayamesa.
 George Washington Bicentennial (1930)
Celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of George
Washington’s birth, the George Washington Bicentennial March was first played
at an impressive ceremony at the Capital Plaza in Washington, DC in February
1932, just a month before Sousa’s death. Sousa appeared to conduct the combined
bands of the United States Army, Navy and Marines.
 The Diplomat (1904)
One of Sousa’s personal favourites, Diplomat was dedicated
to Secretary of State John Milton Hay. Sousa’s composition portrays his
admiration for Hay’s elegant and ebullient diplomatic skills.
 The Directorate (1894)
The Directorate in this case were not band directors, but
the Board of Directors of the 1893 St Louis Exposition. The Sousa Band
performed with great success at the exposition during the summer of 1893.
During their last week there, Sousa was honoured with a special ceremony. He
composed this march to mark the occasion.
 Our Flirtation (1880)
The march Our Flirtation was part of Sousa’s incidental
orchestral music to a musical comedy, Our Flirtations, which was produced in
Philadelphia in 1880. The march was later arranged and published for band.
 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.
 The Atlantic City Pageant (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.
The Royal Artillery Band
The Royal Artillery Band had their ‘drum and fife’ as long
ago as 1557, but it was the need for a ‘band of musik’ in the regiment that led
to the formation of the Royal Artillery Band in 1762. Since 1764, the band has been
quartered with the Royal Artillery Regiment in Woolwich, in south-east London.
Today’s band employs over fifty musicians who, in keeping with tradition, must
be accomplished on both orchestral and wind band instruments. The band may
appear on one day as a symphonic wind band (one of the largest in the British
army), the next as a marching unit, and at another time as a full symphony
orchestra (England’s oldest established symphony orchestra). Their conductor at
the time of this recording was Major Stephen Smith.
Keith Brion leads his own New Sousa Band and is a frequent
conductor of light music orchestral concerts throughout America and
internationally. He is a specialist in Sousa’s period style and has published
numerous performing editions of his music.
Programme 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. The introduction is extracted from
Roger Ruggeri’s programme 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 United States Marine Band; and The Sousa
Collection at the University of Illinois.
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