ALEXANDRIA, Va. --
At 2 p.m., Feb. 11, at the Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va., “The President’s Own” will present a Living History concert titled, “In the Grand Foyer: The Soundtrack of the White House.” This performance will give patrons a virtual ticket into the White House for a private concert by the Marine Chamber Orchestra, featuring music from special musical moments inside the Executive Mansion.
The U.S. Marine Band’s mission is unique, to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Marine Band made its White House debut on New Year’s Day in 1801 at a reception given by President and Mrs. John Adams. Since that time, the Marine Band has furnished music for every Chief Executive at official functions at the White House and for other State occasions. Due to size and versatility, the Marine Chamber Orchestra is the ensemble most frequently featured at the White House.
“As American music has evolved and tastes have changed, so has the repertoire, and the capabilities of the orchestra has morphed considerably over the course of the last 150 years,” explained Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig.
“The President’s Own” has always performed music to suit the tastes of each Chief Executive, their families, and guests. From the earliest days, the repertoire has included popular and patriotic music as well as classical music and operatic selections. In many cases, the Marine Band was responsible for introducing music from the latest operas either before or very soon after their American premières. Music of Johannes Brahms, Richard Wagner, and others was performed by request at the White House long before it became well known to concert audiences.
This tradition was illustrated when President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice requested that the band perform Scott Joplin’s new “Maple Leaf Rag.” This youthful request for jazz music seemed controversial in its day, but the members of the Marine Band gladly complied. More recently Marine Band percussionist Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Rose accompanied the creator of “Hamilton” Lin-Manuel Miranda and President Barack Obama for a freestyle rap in the Rose Garden.
While viewers can see or hear snippets of the Marine Band on news networks during the outdoor events, the engagements held inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are generally only witnessed by a limited guest list.
“The public has an opportunity to see and hear the Marine Band in concerts and ceremonies throughout the Washington, D.C., area and that’s an important part of what we do, but most people don’t often have the chance to see the core of our mission because a lot of that mission is executed inside the White House,” Fettig notes. “I wanted to provide an opportunity to open the doors of the White House to the general public to get a glimpse of one of the most important things we do in support of our mission.”
Fettig, who will narrate the program, will share some of the most memorable musical moments with Leonard Bernstein, Steven Spielberg, Rita Moreno, Harper Lee, Stevie Wonder, Itzhak Perlman, and Gloria Estefan. The first half of the program will include music that the ensemble typically uses to help set the atmosphere at the White House, including William Boyce’s Symphony No. 1 in B-flat and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Allegro con brio from Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183. The Marine Jazz Combo, which is often featured in the Entrance Hall, will also make a brief appearance.
The second half of the performance will be a reenactment of a State Dinner sequence for the Republic of Korea that will include audience participation.
“When the visiting head of state enters the White House for the first time, I like to make them feel welcome and we take great care in selecting music for this moment,” Fettig explains. “For this ‘State Arrival,’ we will perform “Arirang,” which is a Korean folk song that is often considered the unofficial national anthem of the Republic of Korea.”
After the guests visit with the President and First Lady upstairs in the Yellow Oval Room, the party proceeds down the Grand Staircase during which the orchestra plays “Hail, America,” followed by “Hail to the Chief.” The sequence and concert will continue with the Strolling Strings surrounding the audience to set the mood for the State Dining Room. The program will close with some after dinner entertainment, including Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and George Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
The concert is free, and no tickets are required. A clarinet quartet will present a pre-concert performance at 1:15 in the lobby. For a complete program click here.