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The Presidents Own

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Sousa Season Opener

By Master Sgt. Kristin duBois | United States Marine Band | January 5, 2016

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“The President’s Own” returns to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall for the 12th annual Sousa Season Opener at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 10. The program will feature several of the “March King’s” compositions from the upcoming online album “The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa” Vol. 2, including “Rifle Regiment,” “Sound Off,” and “Semper Fidelis.” Other highlights include equally popular non-march selections penned by Sousa, Richard Strauss, and Arthur Pryor.

 

“The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa” is a multi-year recording project initiated by Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig in 2014. It is the band’s first comprehensive collection of Sousa’s 136 marches since the release of “The Heritage of John Philip Sousa” recordings in 1974-76 and strives to be the definitive resource for patrons and educators alike. Vol. 1, which was released last April, includes audio files of Sousa’s first 17 marches composed between 1873-82, as well as full scores, parts, and historical notes for each piece. Vol. 1 is available at www.marineband.marines.mil/audioresources. Vol. 2 will be released this April.

 

“It was a revelatory experience to get to know some of these early marches, and to discover new things about Sousa’s evolving compositional style,” Fettig said. “He was experimenting with instrumentation and different forms in these marches and quickly beginning to find his particular voice. This development especially took off once he assumed Directorship of the Marine Band in 1880, and the latter marches in this volume reveal a clear indication of where Sousa was heading with his music.”

 

Although Sousa was known around the world as the “March King,” he never restricted himself to just this one musical form. In addition to marches, Sousa wrote 70 songs, two descriptive pieces, 15 operettas, 11 waltzes, 14 humoresques, five overtures, and 11 concert suites. The program will highlight his Cubaland suite, “La Reine de La Mer” waltz, and his musical setting of the Rudyard Kipling poem, “Boots.”

 

The program will also include two selections not by Sousa: the Finale from Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss and the trombone solo “Annie Laurie” by Arthur Pryor. Sousa maintained great admiration for the work of his contemporary Strauss and programmed transcriptions of several of Strauss’s works with his bands. This was truly contemporary music of the day, and in many cases, American audiences heard the music of the famous German for the very first time during Sousa’s concerts. Sousa considered it his responsibility to expose the public to great works in the serious classical repertoire and raise the overall level of artistic appreciation. That said, he was also a shrewd businessman and well aware of the limits of his public’s tolerance for this initiative. His solution was to present these longer works on his programs with significant cuts, skipping through to the most essential and dramatic parts. As the band travelled deeper into parts of the country with less exposure to the arts, the cuts became more substantial. A typical performance of Death and Transfiguration in its entirely lasted about 25 minutes. As the omissions in Sousa’s performances of the work grew in number, the members of the Sousa Band would joke that they had the artist depicted in Strauss’s masterpiece “dead and buried in less than eight minutes!”

 

One of Sousa’s band members was trombone player Arthur Pryor who, during his 12 years with Sousa, performed an incredible 10,000 solos. Pryor is widely regarded as one of the greatest trombone virtuosos of all time due in no small part to his astounding technique and exquisite sound. As was common practice for many virtuosos of the day, Pryor wrote many of his own solos to specifically showcase his unique skills. He composed some 300 works, many set as theme and variations on well-known melodies like “Annie Laurie.” Many of Pryor’s solo compositions were written when there were very few substantial solo pieces for the trombone, and they have since entered the canon of standard solo works for the instrument. This Sunday’s concert will highlight trombonist Master Sgt. Chris Clark performing Pryor’s “Annie Laurie,” arranged by Albert O. Davis.

 

Complete concert program and notes

 

Directions and parking information


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