June 27, 2016 -- As the nation approaches the 240th anniversary of its independence, the United States Marine Band prepares American music and patriotic selections for upcoming concerts on the national mall on Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30, both at 8 p.m., on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol. (Please note this is a change from our usual location on Thursday nights.) This week’s Summer Fare performances at the U.S. Capitol will feature marches by John Philip Sousa, a clarinet duet, and Gene Scheer’s patriotic song, “American Anthem,” heard as a backdrop to World War II footage in Ken Burns’ film The War. The concert will begin with Sousa’s “The Gladiator” and close with the strains of his iconic march “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
“In addition to several other celebratory and patriotic selections chosen for this concert just before Independence Day, our mezzo-soprano Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield will sing Scheer’s moving ‘American Anthem,’” Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “This is a work that the Marine Band has performed several times in recent years at major national events and it speaks directly to the spirit of service so many Americans have offered in preserving the ideals of our nation, both those in the military and regular citizens alike.”
The Marine Band first performed Scheer’s “American Anthem” in 1998 with vocalist Denyce Graves at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., at the unveiling of the restored “Star-Spangled Banner,” the original United States flag that inspired the national anthem. In 2005, Graves performed “American Anthem” again with the band, this time at the Inauguration of President George W. Bush immediately before he took the oath of office. “The President’s Own” also performed the piece in 2013 at the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice prior to President Barack Obama’s remarks at the ceremony.
“One of the most heartfelt memories I have of this piece was singing it for the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon in 2007,” said Sheffield. “It was a beautiful September day and thousands had gathered to remember, reflect, and pay tribute to those they had lost. The lyrics are so poignant and express the sheer gratitude I have in being able to call America home.”
The concerts will also feature the world première of American composer Eric Mandat’s Parallel Histories: An Excursion. Parallel Histories celebrates the lives and careers of two Marine Band clarinetists from southern Illinois: Master Gunnery Sgt. Jay Niepoetter and Master Sgt. Jihoon Chang. Niepoetter and Chang first met in the summer of 1983 at the Summer Music Camp at Southern Illinois University, where Eric Mandat was their instructor. The clarinetists stayed in touch and eventually both joined “The President’s Own.”
“Jay, Jihoon and I have remained good friends throughout the years, and Jay was kind enough to ask me if I would be willing to write this work as a tribute to their illustrious careers with ‘The President’s Own,’ as they approach retirement from the Marines,” said Mandat.
Niepoetter and Chang sat next to each other in 1983 for band camp and have been side by side for more than 20 years while in the Marine Band. When asked about the composition, Niepoetter said, “It’s been fun to learn. I asked Eric for piece that was a cross between Gershwin and Danny Elfman. So we got a jazzy and challenging piece.”
“And nobody writes clarinet music like him!” Niepoetter continued. “Our lines are very much written in parallel; rarely do we play alone. We will be going along in cool jazz lick and all of sudden we switch to playing in 1/2 steps. We begin the piece on clarinet but we switch to bass clarinet for a slow middle section then back to clarinet for some crazy fun. We conclude the piece on bass clarinet.”
The concerts also will include Frank Ticheli’s Sanctuary, John Zdechlik’s Celebrations, and Jubel Overture by Carl Maria von Weber, the father of German Romanticism.
For the Summer Fare performances, limited street parking is available. For concerts at the Capitol, patrons may travel via Metro and take the red line to Union Station or the blue, orange, or silver lines to the Capitol South station. The concerts are free but weather permitting and programming is subject to change. Inclement weather announcements will be made by 6 p.m. on the band’s Concert Information Line at (202) 433-4011.
Complete Program and Notes
Directions and parking