Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Not So Well Known Sousa Marches

John Phillip Sousa with the Marine Corps Band in San Francisco, 1892

Very un-Left of me, but I've always loved military marches since I was a lil' kid.  I played baritone and French horn in the high school band, though I was never very talented musically.  John Phillip Sousa's marches were fun to listen to and fun to play.  Most of them follow a formula; first and second part, "dog fight," and "trio" always played three times with ever increasing volume and instrumentation.  Sousa got an amazing range out of that formula which seems never to have exhausted its possibilities.

I've heard some fine military marches from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc., but far and away the best of them all remain the marches written by Sousa.  I've heard the bands of the Household Regiment in Britain and of the Garde Republicaine in France play his marches, quite an international salute.

That's remarkable since Sousa's ambition in life was not to be known for his military music, but for his operettas.  He wanted to be an American version of Johann Strauss Jr.  His operettas are almost never performed these days while his marches remain as well known and popular as ever.  This son of immigrants, a Portuguese father and a Bavarian mother, wrote the music most identified with flag waving on the Fourth of July.

Here are some of his not quite so famous, but still really wonderful, marches.

The Bride Elect, a march written to advertize one of Sousa's operettas

National Fencibles, a march written for a cadet corps of the National Guard

Jack Tar, presumably a Navy march; "jack tar" is very old slang for a sailor

The Gallant Seventh, one of Sousa's late marches, written in 1922 in honor of the Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard

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