1 June 2015 -- “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band kicks off its 2015 Summer Fare season with an international program sure to please everyone’s musical palate. Conducted by Assistant Director Major Michelle A. Rakers, the performance will include John Philip Sousa’s March, “Revival;” Steven Bryant’s Stampede; Amilcare Ponchielli’s Clarinet Duet, “Il Convegno,” featuring soloists Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Willett and Gunnery Sgt. Tracey Paddock; Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2; Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s “Almost Like Being In Love” from Brigadoon featuring baritone vocalist Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Finale from Symphony No. 5, Opus 47.
The concert begins in North America with John Philip Sousa’s “Revival,” and Steven Bryant’s Stampede. “Revival,” a traditional American march from “The March King” incorporates the hymn “[In the] Sweet Bye and Bye.” Sousa wrote it at the age of 21, four years before being appointed the Marine Band’s 17th Director. His music teacher John Esputa Jr., saw great potential in the young composer. He was quoted in the Musical Monitor saying, “The march is deserving of credit. We are glad to see such proficiency in one so young, and predict for him a brilliant future.” “Revival” is one of 17 marches included in Volume 1 of the Marine Band’s “The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa,” a multi-year recording project, initiated by Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig. Volume 1 covers the years 1873-82, and is available for free download exclusively at: www.marineband.marines.mil/AudioResources/TheCompleteMarchesofJohnPhilipSousa.aspx.
While Sousa’s marches bring to mind ceremonial pomp and circumstance, contemporary American composer Steven Bryant sought to evoke the spirit of the “wild west” with his Stampede. He said, “The music is a high-spirited celebration of the Calgary Stampede’s cultural amalgamation (from the cowboys and the agriculture and livestock industries they represent, to the First Nations, to the Young Canadians, and including, of course, the Stampede Band), and the unified spirit of all these groups in promoting their western values and heritage.”
The program migrates to Europe next with Amilcare Ponchielli’s clarinet duet, “Il Convegno.” Ponchielli was an Italian bandmaster and prolific composer of band music in the mid-1800s. He produced at least 82 original compositions and 120 arrangements for band in his lifetime. “Il Convegno” or “The Meeting,” is one of his most popular works and is a musical portrayal of two lovers’ rendezvous.
From the marble columns of 19th century Italy, the program moves to the contemporary dance salons of Mexico. In 1994, Arturo Márquez wrote a series of compositions based on the danzón. Danzón No. 2 became so well loved it has been referred to as a second national anthem for Mexico. He said, “It endeavors to get as close as possible to the dance, to its nostalgic melodies, to its wild rhythms, and although it violates its intimacy, its form and its harmonic language. It is a very personal way of paying my respects and expressing my emotions towards truly popular music.” The son of a mariachi musician and the grandson of a Mexican folk singer, Mexico’s musical culture enveloped Márquez from his earliest days. The distinct sounds of the Mexican dance salons, which Márquez knew so well from childhood, became an important influence on his mature work.
The program then jets to Scotland, via “the great white way” with “Almost Like Being in Love” from the legendary Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Broadway hit Brigadoon. Set in the Scottish Highlands, Brigadoon tells the story of two American tourists, Tommy and Jeff, who happen upon the un-charted village of Brigadoon. Due to a spell to preserve its peace and special beauty, it appears just one day every one hundred years. While visiting this mystical town, Tommy becomes captivated by Fiona, a young woman who resides in Brigadoon. Before the close of the first act, Tommy cannot contain the joy he feels, and he sings to his traveling companion that it is “Almost Like Being in Love.”
The program concludes in Stalinist Russia with the Finale from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Opus 47. At its first performance in 1937 by the Leningrad Philharmonic, the symphony was an immediate triumph. During the era of Stalinist purging, audiences across Russia connected with the struggle and tragedy personified in this work. As part of his stylistic reform to avoid official censure, Shostakovich employed a more traditional four-movement format with the Fifth Symphony. While the first three movements portray immense struggle, tragedy, and emotional sorrow, the final movement enters boldly with timpani and is soon joined by the low brass, and the work transforms into a powerfully uplifting force.
Summer Fare takes place at 8 p.m., Wednesdays on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol and Thursdays at the Sylvan Theater, on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Street parking is available or, for concerts at the Capitol, patrons may take the red line to Union Station or the blue, orange, or silver lines to the Capitol South station. For concerts at the Sylvan Theater take the blue, orange, or silver lines to the Smithsonian station. The concerts are free but weather permitting. Inclement weather announcements will be made by 6 p.m. on the band’s Concert Information Line at (202) 433-4011.
Program and notes