ClassicsOnline Home » SOUSA, J.P.: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 7 (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 seventh disc in the series features the grand Presidential Polonaise, the Intaglio Waltzes (modelled on Johann Strauss’s famous examples), and the triumphant Golden Jubilee March in which Sousa imagined “the world passing in review”.
By David Denton
Around the turn-of-the-century John Philip Sousa placed America’s military band music on the world map, though it was a career that he never intended. Born in Washington DC in 1854, his father, a trombonist with the United States Marine Band, realised his son’s musical potential, and mapped out his future as a classically trained violinist and composer. But things were to change at the age of 25 when, rather surprisingly for his young years, he received the appointment of Director of the United States Marine Band. It was to engender the composition of a series of marches and other music for wind band that is now recorded for the first time in its entirety. The present disc containing the charming Intaglio Waltzes, inspired by Sousa’s affection for Johann Strauss, being one example of his wide use of the wind band idiom, though elsewhere Sousa did often fall into the well-tried march formula without any strong thematic material, The Rifle Regiment March and Congress Hall March being typical examples. But when inspired, as in the El Capitanand Golden Jubilee marches, he was unequalled in this genre. There is also some entertaining scene painting in Sheridan’s Ride, a extended concert work that relates the story of General Philip Sheridan and his famous ride to lead his troops to battle in the American Civil War. The disc opens with America First from the 1916 Broadway show, Hip, Hip Hooray, and also includes The Presidential Polonaise, together with a score probably intended for Offenbach’s orchestra, Sounds from the Revivals. Under the direction of the Sousa specialist, Keith Brion, The Royal Artillery Band from the UK is in fine form, their experience as a symphonic wind orchestra giving the ideal background for this diverse programme. Sound quality is a little dry, but it adds clarity.
John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)
Music for Wind Band, Volume 7
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 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. 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, 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 200 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 works of Sousa including his 136 marches and many concert compositions. This new series, “Sousa: Works for Wind Band” seeks to record them for the world to hear.
 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.
 The Presidential Polonaise (1886)
While Sousa was director of the Marine Band, The Presidential Polonaise was composed in 1886 at the request of President Chester Arthur, who wanted to have something more suitable than “Hail to the Chief” for ceremonial affairs at the White House. While the piece never came to be regularly used by future presidents, Sousa used the opportunity to create a very grand composition.
 The Rifle Regiment March (1886)
One of Sousa’s great and “solid” early marches from his Marine Band period, The Rifle Regiment March of 1886, is dedicated “To the officers and men of the 3rd U.S. Infantry”.
 Congress Hall March (1882)
Congress Hall is the name of a historic hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, a popular summer resort area. The Congress Hall March was composed in 1882 for the occasion of one of the Marine Band’s earliest concert trips away from Washington under Sousa’s direction.
 El Capitan March (1896)
One of Sousa’s most enduring and popular compositions, his El Capitan March is in fact a setting of a number of popular songs from his most successful Broadway show of the same name. An examination of the piano vocal score to the 1896 musical will reveal both the words and music for each section of the march, ending with the show’s powerful choral finale.
 Intaglio Waltzes (1884)
One of Sousa’s many wonderful and romantic waltz selections structured in the style of Johann Strauss’s famous waltzes, the Intaglio Waltzes of 1884 were dedicated to the daughter of a California senator friend of Sousa’s.
 Golden Jubilee March (1928)
Composed to commemorate his fiftieth year as a conductor, the première of Sousa’s Golden Jubilee March was given in July 1928 at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. The march was then featured throughout the Sousa Band’s 1928 Golden Jubilee tour. Sousa drew his inspiration from the thought that after fifty years of traveling concerts he “seemed to see the world passing in review”.
 The Bride-Elect March (1897)
The popular Bride-Elect March of 1897 has themes extracted from the successful vocal solos and choruses in the show of that name. Typically, as in many of Sousa’s other treatments of his operetta marches, it changes meter from triple to double rhythm at the midpoint.
 Sounds from the Revivals (1896)
During the summer of 1896 Sousa played in the first violin section of Jacques Offenbach’s orchestra at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. He also became one of Offenbach’s orchestral arrangers. This medley of religious songs from the Revivals may have been initially created for Offenbach’s orchestra and then was subsequently transcribed for a local Philadelphia band. The hymns include Jesus Lover of My Soul, Nearer My God to Thee, Come Holy Spirit, Hold the Fort, and Sweet Bye and Bye. The solo cornetist for this recording is Martin Hinton.
 The Charlatan March (1898)
The Charlatan March of 1898 is another of Sousa’s “operetta marches” comprising tunes drawn from the last two acts of one of Sousa’s most musically rich theater scores.
 Sheridan’s Ride (1891)
Describing Sheridan’s Ride of 1891 as a “Scenes Historical”, Sousa musically characterizes a famous moment in the Civil War when General Philip Sheridan furiously rode his black stallion at breakneck speed for twenty miles to rejoin his troops, rallying them and ultimately leading them to victory in the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia. This decisive victory helped assure Abraham Lincoln’s re-election as president and insured the safety of Washington DC from the Confederate Army. The composition has six sections: Waiting for the Bugle, The Attack, The Death of Thoburn, The Coming of Sheridan, and The Apotheosis.
 The Black Horse Troop March (1924)
Dedicated to Troop A (Cavalry) of the Cleveland National Guard, 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 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.
Program 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.