This month’s March of the Month audio download is “The Crusader” by John Philip Sousa and the Featured Soloist selection is violist Staff Sgt. Sarah Hart’s performance of “The Three Gs” by Kenji Bunch.
It is not widely known that John Philip Sousa was a member of the Masons from age 26. But, like his father, Sousa was indeed a proud and active Mason and, in 1886, was knighted in the Columbia Commandery No. 2, Knights Templar in Washington, D.C. It was soon after this ceremony that Sousa wrote his march, “The Crusader.” The title is presumably derived from the Knights Templar’s origins in the Crusades, which is also the origin of many of the secret rituals and ceremonies employed by the Masons. It is interesting to note that it was not only common, but also somewhat expected that military bandmasters of Sousa’s era be members of Masonic organizations. Two other Sousa marches also having Masonic origins are “The Thunderer” and “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.” “The Crusader” was recorded on May 20, 1984 at the old John Philip Sousa Band Hall at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., (now known as Crawford Hall).
Listen to “The Crusader”
Hailed by the New York Times as “a composer to watch,” Kenji Bunch blends wit, exuberance, lyricism, and unpredictable stylistic infusions in music that is both fresh and accessible. His works have been performed by more than forty orchestras, are regularly broadcast on national radio, and are available on a variety of record labels. An accomplished violist, Bunch performs his own music and maintains a versatile performing career with folk, jazz, rock, and alternative groups.
Staff Sgt. Hart performed “The Three Gs” unaccompanied with a driving rock feel. The title refers to the unique tuning of the viola required for the work. Both the highest and lowest strings are lowered to the pitch G, changing the instrument’s four strings from ADGC to GDGG. Bunch is not alone in his exploration of nonstandard tuning, a technique called scordatura, meaning “mistuning” in Italian. Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Gustav Mahler all wrote pieces that use scordatura to create new possibilities for harmonies and transform the sound of familiar instruments. “The Three Gs” by Kenji Bunch was recorded Oct. 5, 2014 at the new John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex.
Violist Staff Sergeant Sarah Hart joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra in January 2009. Staff Sgt. Hart began her musical training at age 6. After graduating in 2002 from Rosati-Kain High School in St. Louis, she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in music and chemistry in 2006 from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., where she studied with Dr. Sam McClure. In 2008, Staff Sgt. Hart earned a master’s degree in viola performance with an additional focus in pedagogy from Indiana University in Bloomington, where she studied with Atar Arad, former member of the Cleveland Quartet. She also has studied with Dr. Catharine Carroll at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland in College Park where she is studying with Dan Foster, principal viola of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” she performed at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, and as a member of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra in Indiana.
Listen to “The Three Gs”